By Upton Daily’s Health and Fitness contributor Christine Silvestri
Ahhh…fall! The cool, crisp air, the colorful leaves, sweaters, and pumpkins! No food seems to symbolize fall more than this beloved orange fruit. Pumpkins are amazing for your health and this time of year you can find them almost anywhere. Pumpkin is so versatile you can find it in everything from cocktails, baked goods, stews and cosmetics.
The word pumpkin originates from the Greek work Pepon, which means large melon and it eventually morphed into the word pumpkin by the French, English and then Americans. It is believed that pumpkins were first cultivated in ancient central America where seeds were found dating back 7,500 years ago. Pumpkins were one of the first crops grown for food in North America because they stored well in the winter when crops were scarce.
Nutritionally, pumpkins are superstars thanks to their bright orange flesh and protein packed seeds. Pumpkin flesh is low in calories with only 30 per cup, and contains an impressive amount of vitamin A due to its orange color as well as vitamin C. The seeds, also called pepitas, have 126 calories and 5g of protein and fiber per 1 oz. serving which is about 85 seeds. They also contain impressive amounts of the mineral magnesium.
Health wise, pumpkin improves eyesight, aids in weight loss due to its fiber content, lowers blood pressure, lowers cancer risk and protects skin and keeps wrinkles at bay. Fresh is best but if purchasing canned, make sure the only ingredient is pumpkin as the pie filling has added sugars.
The seeds help boost heart health, immune function, insulin regulation, improves sleep and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Look for seeds that smell fresh and not mushy or stale. Better yet, roast your own! I’ve even included a basic recipe that you can tweak to suite any flavor preference!
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal– serves 1
- 1 cup unsweetened almond, coconut or non-dairy milk of choice
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (certified GF if needed)
- 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1/4-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (depends on taste)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1T pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or chopped pecans
- Maple syrup or honey (optional)
In a saucepan heat the milk over medium heat until boiling. Add the oatmeal and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the pumpkin puree, spices and vanilla and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until oatmeal is cooked. Top will pumpkin seeds and drizzle with maple syrup or honey if desired. This recipe can easily be doubled!
- 1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- ½-3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin (depends on how much of a pumpkin lover you are!)
- 11/2-2 tsp spice of choice- like sweet? Try cinnamon! (may need to add stevia or pure maple syrup to help sweeten it). Like savory? Try a mix of garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and sea salt.
- 1tsp-1T coconut oil if needed to help thin.
- Whole wheat, brown rice, Ezekiel or other whole grain tortilla.
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. This could take 3-5 minutes. Cut tortilla into strips and place in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until crisp. Want more flavor? Spray the tortilla lightly with coconut oil or evoo cooking spray first and sprinkle with cinnamon or spices before toasting. YUM!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Cut open a pumpkin and remove the seeds and flesh. Separate the seeds and rinse off any remaining pumpkin and pat dry. Toss the seeds in 1 T of coconut or olive oil and toss to coat. Add a generous amount of any spices that suite your tastes. Get creative! Try salt and garlic, paprika and cumin, cinnamon and stevia, parmesan and Italian seasoning. Stir seeds until spice is well incorporated.
Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Seeds are done when golden brown.
Christine Silvestri is the owner of Mashup Fitness and Nutrition. For more articles and information on programs visit www.mashup-fitness.com or visit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mashupfitness.