Nutrition Tips: Pumpkins a Plenty
Maintaining a healthy wholesome diet, though vital, can be difficult for the typical busy college student. Making sure we consume healthy wholesome foods is also important. This recurring column will present seasonal foods along with their health benefits, some little known fun facts and, of course, useful recipes.
October marks the beginning of cold and flu season as well as the holiday season. With these seasons nearing, it is essential to keep in mind the importance of boosting our immune systems during this time. Instead of pumping ourselves full of medication, we could eat some pumpkin. Pumpkins are great for tasty recipes, but they are also packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
According to a study done by the University of Illinois, pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps improve functions in the body and reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Pumpkins also have anti-inflammatory properties which help lower the risk of heart disease. They have no cholesterol or saturated fat which makes them a great choice for controlling weight loss and heart health. Pumpkins contain significant levels of vitamin A which can improve eye sight, vitamin B which helps control blood sugar levels and Vitamin C which boosts the immune system. They also include Vitamin E, an antioxidant which maintains the integrity of the skin and mucus membranes and also protects tissue cells in the body.
One strange yet very important fact about pumpkins has to do with their color. Although pumpkins are a very nutritious fruit, a person who consumes too much pumpkin may start to see skin discoloration. “I love pumpkin. I actually ate so much of it that the palms of my hands started turning orange,” said Nickie Bartram, a UCC fitness instructor. Carotenemia is the discoloration of the skin caused by the excessive consumption of carotene.
Pumpkins, because they are 90 percent water, are great for hydration. Seeds are an extra health benefit found inside the pumpkin. These flat, chewy, pale white seeds are surprisingly nutritious. They are packed with proteins, omega 3 fatty acids (recommended for heart health), Vitamin E and the minerals selenium and zinc. These seeds can also be eaten as a snack. Erin McDonald, a registered dietician, notes in Oxygen magazine that they will accelerate metabolism while helping ward off cravings.
Pumpkin is a great fruit to make all sorts of food with. It is a great substitute or addition and can easily be used to make your meals into healthy ones. Bartram shared some personal ideas for the use of pumpkin in foods. “My favorite fall recipes are made from pumpkin. Pumpkin soup, pumpin’ pumpkin protein shakes, and health-ified pumpkin pie.”
Classic Pumpkin Pie
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 ½ cups evaporated milk
1 prepared 10-inch pie crust (uncooked)
In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, spice, and evaporated milk until well combined. Pour mixture into a pie crust and bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40-45 minutes, until all but the very center of the pie is set. Remove and let cool before serving with fresh whipped cream.
5 cups flour
4 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. allspice
4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 Lg. can of pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well and add the pumpkin and canola oil, mix well. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Makes 3 large loaves.
Upside-down Pumpkin Pecan Pie
2, 30 ounce cans pumpkin pie mix
1 cup sugar
1, 12 oz can evaporated milk
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1 pkg yellow cake mix
3/4 cup butter (melted)
2 cups chopped pecans
Combine the pumpkin mix, sugar, and milk in a large bowl. Add the spices, and beat in the eggs. Pour mixture into three or four cake pans (about 3/4 full). Sprinkle the package of cake mix over the top, drizzle the butter over the top of that, and sprinkle the pecans over the top of everything.
Cook the pies at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
Top with whipped cream and caramel sauce!
If you'd like to bake even more, or if you have an over abundance of pumkins ... try these extra recipies out!