First, let’s run through the reasons why pumpkin is so great. According to Livestrong.com, this squash relative has 7 grams of fiber per one cup. That knocks a good dent in the recommended daily intake, which is 30-38 grams for men and 21-25 grams for women. Potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K are just a handful of the vitamins and minerals present in pumpkin. Feeling parched? Pumpkin contains a good bit of water, which will help keep you hydrated. Last but not least, it is low in fat.
Pumpkin pie, lattes, muffins, bread, toasted seeds, donuts—you’d think we had heard it all. Yet people are still figuring out healthier and even more creative ways to put a spin on it! Here a few ways we like to make the most of our pumpkins in my family.
Eat Your Pumpkin
Roasted Seeds: We always carve a pumpkin and toast the seeds the night before we make the hour long drive to our state fair in October. They’re packed up in little sacks and everyone gets some of these healthy morsels to munch on during the ride. Last year, while making a batch, we decided to get crazy with the flavors. We grabbed different seasonings from the cabinet like barbecue, Italian herb, rosemary garlic, and sun-dried tomato. These additions were insanely good and will definitely become a regular part of the tradition.
Pasta: I have yet to try this, but am absolutely going to—pumpkin pasta. Maybe I’m late to the game, but I haven’t heard of this until this year. There are loads of recipes floating around that include adding fresh or canned pumpkin in dinner dishes, such as curry, spaghetti, penne, risotto, dinner rolls, ravioli and mac and cheese! I guess I always settled for the idea that pumpkin was for dessert, now I can’t wait to change my ways.
Beverages: I am probably guilty of buying one too many fall flavored beverages this time of year. A lot the flavors in those things are artificial, really high in sugar and aren’t lacking in the fat department either. Last year, I went on a quest for something better and began trying to make my own pumpkin smoothies. I hadn’t seen a pumpkin smoothie before, but there’s a good chance it already existed. The possibilities are endless here and it is so good and so “fall time.” I don’t have a specific recipe, I just throw in some banana, sweetened yogurt, soy milk (or other nut milks), pumpkin pie spices and, of course, pumpkin (fresh or canned). If you feel you need more sweetness, add a bit of pure maple syrup to the mix. Try a Pumpkin Coconut Chai Latte or a rich Pumpkin-Spice Vegan Eggnog.
Grilled: My sister-in-law is from Japan, and they love to grill pumpkin! It is a special pumpkin that resembles an acorn squash, with more green to its coloring. She buys it from her local Asian market, slices it into wedges and brushes it with a little oil, and it tastes incredibly festive during autumn cookouts. I highly recommend looking around for an Asian market and picking up some for any get-together this season.
Store-Bought Options: Maybe you’re not in the mood or simply don’t have time to whip up homemade pumpkin goods. The good news is that during this time of year stores carry pumpkin-flavored everything! Some of the healthier treats I’ve seen include hummus, cereal, salsa, soups and coconut milk. Stores such as Kroger, Sprouts and Trader Joe's usually carry a good stock of these specialty items (varies by state).
Pump(kin) Up Your Skincare
Pumpkin is actually a great natural skin-care ingredient. It helps fight acne with torulitine and vitamin E, and dissolves dry skin with natural enzymes. Its anti-inflammatory properties calm skin afflictions, such as large pores, blackheads and excess oil. You can apply pumpkin puree directly to your skin, or add other healthy ingredients like milk, honey, turmeric or cinnamon.
If you’re still looking for more great ways to use this year’s pumpkin harvest, try going back to tradition! Get into the fall spirit by making a delicious pie, carving a Jack-o-lantern, or just setting some pumpkins, squash and gourds on your porch and harvest table.
Photos by Fotolia.
Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.