Hey, Pumpkin! (Part 1: Nutrition)

 
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This month, as the leaves fall, and the weather cools we’re focusing on that gorgeous orange sphere seemingly present in every grocery store and field around us… pumpkin!

Pumpkin, a fruit of the vine related to squash and cucumber is an iconic fall crop. It reminds us of hay rides at the pumpkin patch, sipping cider by a bonfire, decorating tables where friends and family gather, baking pies, and crafting lattes. Pumpkins, when connected to any of these events, can evoke feelings of warmth, nostalgia, and community...easily our favorite time of the year! 

nutrition

So why do we love and respect pumpkins so much? For starters, they are delicious… and loaded with nutrition! Pumpkin is full of potassium, vitamins A, C, and E, and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, magnesium and iron. Below are enough reason to trudge through those pumpkin patches!

Pumpkin Flesh

Vitamin A

The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene protects healthy cells from damage by free radicals. It's also converts to Vitamin A in the body which yields benefits like increased immune function, healthy eyes and vision, reproductive health and optimal cellular communication (see fact list here) A 1-cup serving of pureed pumpkin contains more than seven times the daily value of 5,000 IU for vitamin A. 

FIBER 

Eating pumpkin puree (and seeds) can help you meet your daily fiber needs. A 1-cup serving of canned, unsalted pumpkin puree contains about 7 grams of fiber which can be 25-30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for women, and 20-25% RDI for men (resource). The right amount of fiber in our diets may help to decrease cholesterol levels, limits blood sugar spikes (when consumed with sugar) and improve digestion. We also feel full faster so that evil temptation to overeat decreases.

Pumpkin Seeds

Iron

Iron is extremely integral to overall health, and the most common nutrient deficiency in the world (Clark, 2008). Sufficient iron stores prevent anemia and promote sustainable energy, strength, normal heart rates and healthy appetites. This is important especially for our infants and children with iron deficiency anemia, as noted by Mayo Clinic. So identifying natural sources of iron for our diets is something of which we should all be aware!

Zinc

Zinc goes hand in hand with Vitamin A in our bodies. If we are deficient in one, we directly effect the other. Zinc is also required by the body to produce 100 different enzymes and sex hormones and support immune function. While we typically find zinc in red-meat, pumpkin seeds offer a great plant-based alternative. It's important to note that there is a range with healthy zinc intake, so as with most of life, balance and moderation is always key. 

Recipes

In our everyday lives we have a lot of choices to make surrounding what we allow into our food, and preparing dishes at home from whole, organic, nutrient rich ingredients is imperative to optimizing health. Two pumpkin-rich dishes that recently caught our attention harness the nutritional power of pumpkin, in a relatable and comforting way. 

 

 
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Pumpkin Chili

This “Perfect Pumpkin Chili” by Laura Berger looks like it lives up to its title! It’s packed with the right vegetables and spices to fill our fellow pumpkin enthusiasts with joy… and lots of nutrients… and lots of chili!  

Servings: 24

Cook Time: 30 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion chopped

1 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin

2 cups carrots chopped

2-3 cups green pepper chopped

3 cups tomato sauce organic, I use tomato basil flavored, low sodium

3 tbsp. tomato paste organic

6 cups diced tomatoes fresh or canned

6 cups beans combination of pinto, black, and/or kidney

3 cups pumpkin puree about 1.5 cans

3 cups water

1 pound grass-fed ground beef (optional will make a non-vegetarian chili)

 

SEASONINGS:

1.5 tbsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. cocoa powder unsweetened

1 tbsp. Himalayan salt

1 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. paprika

1 tbsp. oregano

Servings: 1 cup portions

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

In an 8-12 quart stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes until they begin to brown.

  1. Stir in carrots and green pepper. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. (Add in ground meat if using and chop into small pieces).
  2. Add in remaining ingredients and all seasonings. Stir to thoroughly incorporate seasonings and pumpkin into the mix.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes-1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste to see if you want any additional seasonings or spices, add accordingly. Enjoy!

 

RECIPE NOTES:

This recipe makes a very large batch, great for freezing extras or serving a crowd. A serving size is about 1-1.5 cups. You can easily half the recipe to make a more manageable pot if you do not want a lot of extras.

 

 
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NO-BAKE PUMPKIN ENERGY BITES

These “No Bake Pumpkin Energy Bites” by Megan Gilmore sound like the perfect, quick treat for all of our busy lives and schedules. We don’t even have to turn the oven on, and we’ll have 24 pretty snacks waiting in the freezer for the next time we’re low on energy and running out the door!

 

SERVINGS: 24

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup hulled sunflower seeds

1 cup dates , pitted (about 7 ounces)

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.     Place the sunflower seeds in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade and process them into a fine flour. Add in the dates, coconut, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt and process until a sticky dough is formed. At this point, you can taste the batter and see if you'd like to make any adjustments-- add in more nuts for a drier texture, more dates for sweetness, or more spice to taste.

2.     Use a one-inch cookie scooper to drop the dough onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper, making roughly 24 balls. Place them in the freezer to set until firm, about 2 hours. Serve chilled for best texture. (They will soften at room temperature but they're still tasty!) When stored in an airtight container in the freezer, these bites should keep well for at least 6 months.

 

RECIPE NOTES:

I used sunflower seeds in this recipe to keep it nut-free, but I imagine using pecans or walnuts would make it taste even better! Feel free to use any nut or seed of your choice.

 

So you have any favorite pumpkin dishes? Share with the tribe! We’d love to know if you tried these recipes, and if you have some that are even better (or easier!).