Pumpkin Power

Can you feel it? Fall has arrived and it makes me want to snuggle up with warm tea, dust off my boots and wrap myself up all cozy in my beanie and sweater. Delicious spices, warm colors, aromatics that fill your house with love, comfort meals shared with the family. Night falls sooner, the evening air is cool and crisp, and pumpkin patches sprout up on every corner lot. It’s time to carve, stuff  bake, blend, and roast. 

These big, round and traditionally orange squash are the ultimate in nutrient dense food. There are dozens of varieties of this gourd, in all sizes and shapes (ask your local farmer for advice because some are grown special for carving.)

Once you’ve found your pumpkin, you can transform the pulp on the inside into the beginnings of homemade pumpkin puree. It’s simple: just weed out the seeds, boil the guts for 30-40 minutes and presto, DIY, not-from-a-can goodness.Your next pumpkin pie can be from scratch, literally.

Pumpkin is also ideal for slow-cooking, alongside other fall veggies like brussels sprouts, fennel, parsnips, together happily in a baking tub makes for a superb side dish. Baked on its own, sprinkled with some coconut sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg will provide you with many days of healthy snacks. Besides tasting great, pumpkins offer a lot of positive health benefits.

5 Health Benefits of Pumpkin

1. Pumpkins can boost your mood.

Would you believe pumpkins contain the same sleepy ingredient as your Thanksgiving turkey? Yep, they too contain the amino acid tryptophan. In moderation, a small handful of pumpkin seeds containing this essential amino acid can scientifically work in your brain along with other minerals bringing out that feel-good chemical serotonin. Additionally, tryptophan is also shown to lower blood pressure.

2. Pumpkins are a good source of protein. 

More magic, ready? Pumpkins contain more protein than almonds! This makes them a fun and smart alternative to your usual nut butter. I just made a batch of Pumpkin Butter for the first time and it’s a game changer. It’s also super simple: toast for about 10 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees, toss in the food processor with some coconut oil, sweeten with maple syrup and spice it up with cinnamon. Done and done.  

3. Pumpkins can help your eyesight.

The flesh of the pumpkin packs quite the punch as far as health benefits are concerned. The powerful antioxidant carotenoid not only gives them their brilliant orange color but also sends them near the top of the functional food category due to their protective powers helping to support your vision and combat some diseases and cancers.  

4. Pumpkins are a great source of fiber.

Squash supplies your body with essential daily fiber and the miracle mineral zinc. Pumpkin is often an overlooked source of fiber, but just 1 cup of pumpkin contains 3 grams of fiber (and only 49 calories!) 

5. Pumpkins support muscle function.

The outstanding amount of the mineral potassium present in pumpkin helps balance electrolytes which are a necessary stabilizer to sustain muscle function. This makes pumpkin a great post-workout snack. 

Recipe: Post-Workout Pumpkin Carrot Smoothie

As a nutritionist, my gateway into food was fitness. Active bodies need fuel, rest and recovery. I’ve come up with the ultimate in smoothies that pairs a dynamic fall duo – pumpkin and carrots. Their superstar qualities beaming with vitamin A  (to strengthening bones) and potassium (to support muscles, as mentioned above) makes this post-workout drink an athlete’s best buddy. Cheers!

Hemp Milk (or Almond, Soy, etc.)
Fresh Grated Ginger
4 Tbs. Pumpkin Puree (organic, homemade, no sugar added)
1/4 C Frozen carrots,
1/2  Small Frozen banana
1/4 tsp Cinnamon 
1/8 tsp Turmeric
Protein powder (I’m into Pea Protein or Vanilla)
3 Pitted Dated (to taste)
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (or pumpkin nut butter )

Mix ingredients in a blender until desired consistency. Enjoy!

Pumpkin in all its glory has no culinary boundaries. It’s everywhere – in muffins, pancakes, cookies, oatmeal, granola, smoothies, mashed. As a snack, try it mixed in yogurt with a little cardamom and golden raisins. Or throw it in savory salads, soup, quinoa, pasta or stew. It even makes a fantastic DIY body scrub

Happy pumpkin picking friends!