You know it’s fall when pumpkins start popping up everywhere. When I see them or smell their sweet, spicy aroma I start daydreaming about thick beds of crunchy leaves, the cool breeze, warm and fuzzy sweatshirts, and the sounds of football on TV.
There are so many reasons to love pumpkins, but here’s the best one. They are crazy good for us!
This beautiful, bright orange fruit is rolling in disease-fighting nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins C and E, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients are believed to help promote healthy skin, vision and immune function. That makes sense considering pumpkins pop up just when our bodies need them, after a long, hot summer and right before the harsh cold and flu season of winter.
Pumpkin may only be in season during the fall, but it should be a pantry staple year round. Canned pumpkin is a family-friendly food that adds flavor and health benefits to kid favorites like muffins, oatmeal and yogurt. The canned variety may not be as festive, but it’s a lot easier to prepare and has similar nutritional value to fresh pumpkin.
Here are some ideas for taking advantage of this healthy, nutrient rich fruit:
- Mix a heaping scoop of pumpkin into yogurt and top with pumpkin seeds, nuts, a drizzle of vanilla, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and raw honey for a slightly sweet, antioxidant-rich fall-flavored parfait.
- Take your morning oatmeal from bland to bam with a tablespoon of pure pumpkin, a little pure maple syrup and a sprinkle of dried cranberries. Are you hungry yet?
- Add pureed pumpkin and a spoonful of applesauce to your favorite bread, muffin, pancake or waffle recipe. You’ll get a nutrient boost and a deliciously fluffy baked good.
- Bake it like other winter squash and mix with pasta or blend it up into a beautiful soup for a refreshing change from traditional tomato.
- Get creative! Pumpkin makes a tasty addition to chili, smoothies and even coffee.
- Don’t forget the seeds, also known as pepitas. They’re subtly sweet and nutty and delicious when roasted.
Stock up on canned, pureed pumpkin in the fall and enjoy this healthy treat all year. Just make sure you buy pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix.
Here’s an idea. Read The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis to your kids and talk about all the tasty health benefits of pumpkin. Then head into the kitchen and find your favorite way to enjoy it.
Calie Shackleford is a health coach, writer and author of the new eBook, The ABCs of Super Foods. You can learn more about Calie on her blog, Broccoli Cupcake.