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Pumpkin Nutrition

Sandy              By: Sandy Spitler (Dietetic Intern)

Pumpkin is everywhere as the fall season comes full circle, from carving them at Halloween to the endless variety of pumpkin flavored coffee drinks, it can incorporated into almost anything you can think of. While pumpkin compliments breads, ravioli, beer, and pie, this fall squash also packs a bounty of health benefits. Below provides evidence to why it is perfectly acceptable to obsess over pumpkin not only this fall but all year long: 

  • Pumpkin seeds help elevate moods and improve sleep  – especially needed during the fall and winter months as the weather cools down and daylight fades away. Pumpkin seeds are rich in the essential amino acid tryptophan needed in the production of serotonin – a major hormone that affects mood and sleep. Regular consumption of pumpkin may even help prevent depression.
  •  Aids in weight loss – as good source of fiber, with 3 grams per 1 cup serving, and only 50 calories, pumpkin can help you feel fuller longer, preventing you from reaching for the candy corn or indulging in a candied apple.
  •  Protects your heart – nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are naturally abundant in phytoesterols, plant-based chemicals shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure. After carving all your pumpkins, keep the seeds to roast in the oven to use as a snack or added crunch in salads.
  •  Keeps vision fine-tuned – 1 cup of mashed pumpkin provides more than 200% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A, aiding to keep your eyesight sharp. 
  • May reduce risk of cancer – pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, displayed by their bright orange color, enhancing the antioxidant beta-carotene, possibly aiding to prevent cancer. These antioxidants also foster skin’s smoothness by helping to prevent wrinkles.
  •  Refuel after a tough workout – 1 cup of cooked pumpkin gives you 560 milligrams of potassium compared to a banana’s 420 milligrams. Potassium aids to restore your body’s electrolyte balance after a grueling workout allowing your muscles to perform at their best.

The endless supply of pumpkin goes hand in hand with its long list of health benefits, giving perfect reason for the obsession with this fall super-food. As the fall air cools down and winter nipping at our toes we begin searching for warm, filling, meals to fuel our bodies through. Warm up with this comforting, delicious, and nutrient dense pumpkin chili, easily modified to please any palate. Recipe below:

Slow Cooker Pumpkin & Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 can (15oz.) black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can white northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can solid-packed pumpkin
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 4.5 oz. can chopped green chile
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, diced OR 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 avocado, sliced and used for topping
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, used for topping

 

Directions:

  1. 1. Heat medium sauté pan over high heat and add ½ teaspoon olive oil to pan
  2. 2. Add onions then garlic to heated oil in pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  3. 3. Add cooked garlic and onions to crock pot followed with remaining ingredients (except for the avocado and cilantro saved for topping). Allow ingredients to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours
  4. 4. Top with cilantro and avocado if desired.  

Tip: You may also replace 1 can of beans with ¾ lb. lean ground turkey by simply browning the turkey in sauté pan and then combine with remaining ingredients in crock pot.