Every year when October arrives, our thoughts turn to pumpkin. The month brings us everything from aromatic pumpkin coffee when we awake to jack-o-lanterns casting spooky shadows on our porches in
Pumpkin is a winter squash that is harvested late in the fall. Choose a pumpkin that is firm and has no visible damage or soft spots. The whole vegetable can be stored for months in a cool, dark, dry place. There is no need to refrigerate your pumpkins; they keep best around 55 Fahrenheit. Once you cut the pumpkin, however, it begins to deteriorate and only lasts a couple of days.
Pumpkin is a low calorie, fiber-rich, and nutrient-rich starchy vegetable. Pumpkin rates as a nutrition rock-star due to its vitamin A content. This is from the pigment, beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A and gives pumpkin its orange color. Vitamin A promotes healthy eyes and vision and is involved with immune function and reproduction. It appears that vitamin A reduces risk of certain cancers in non-smokers and may slow vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration. While there are concerns with too much vitamin A from supplements, beta-carotene has no adverse health effects except for a change in skin tone to an orange hue. This could be an advantage if you find yourself without a costume for Halloween…
Most seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals. If you have the calories to spare, you will also get a hefty amount of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc (all over 50% DV) as well as 25% DV of iron. Only 5 of the 28 grams of fat is saturated fat and there is no trans fat.
There are many ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable. It can be roasted, grilled, baked, used in soups, oatmeal, pureed for baking, or even added to pasta! The below recipe is from Clean Eating magazine. It is a favorite in this dietitian’s household. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Pasta Surprise
Makes six 1-cup servings
13-oz whole-grain pasta
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely shredded
1 Roma tomato, chopped into small chunks
1 small zucchini, finely chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
15 oz pumpkin purée
10-oz pasta sauce
1 tbsp low-fat plain cream cheese
Cook pasta (undercook slightly).
In a skillet over medium heat, brown turkey for 7-10 minutes (until no pink remains).
Drain fat, return pan with turkey to stove and add onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent.
Add carrot, tomato and zucchini, sauté for 3-5 minutes, until tender.
Add red pepper, pumpkin purée and pasta sauce (if too thick, add water). Cover and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add cream cheese, turn off heat, and let cream cheese melt.
Add pasta, mix, cover and let stand for 2 minutes.
Nutrients per 1-cup serving Calories: 402, Total Fat: 3.5 g, Sat. Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 62 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 25 g, Sodium: 72 mg, Cholesterol: 38 mg
Alexia Lewis, MS, RD, LD/N is a dietitian in Jacksonville, Florida. She works at the University of North Florida as a Nutrition Instructor in the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics and as a Wellness Dietitian in the Department of Health Promotion. She is the current President of the Jacksonville Dietetic Association (JDA). She has been published in the JDA Journal and on www.LiveSTRONG.com.