It’s Pumpkin Season so Let’s Celebrate

‘Tis the season when pumpkins seem to invade every nook and cranny in your life. They’re piled high outside supermarkets. Every pastry, cookie, cake, beverage and soup you see has either pumpkin or pumpkin spice in it. Soon jack-o’-lanterns will glow in windows and on porches. And then less than a month later, pumpkin pies will proliferate.

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pumpkin health benefitsLove it or loathe it, pumpkin is an underappreciated squash that offers much more than just an ingredient for sweets and soups. It’s an incredible source for nutrients both consumed and used externally. Pets can also benefit from its properties. As for culinary uses, you’ll be surprised at the range of foods that the pumpkin can enhance.

Nutrition: Fresh vs. Canned Pumpkin

The bright orange hue of most pumpkins reflects their high beta-carotene content. This is a provitamin that the body transforms to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is notorious for its immune-boosting powers and eye health benefits. It has also been linked to the prevention of coronary heart disease. Pumpkin is low in saturated fat, and extremely low in cholesterol and sodium. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus. Pumpkin is also a very good resource for dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium and Copper

But, there’s no reason to choose fresh pumpkin to get the benefits of the vegetable. One cup of canned pumpkin has seven grams of fiber and three grams of protein. This is more than the fresh stuff and contains only 80 calories and one gram of fat.  In addition, canned pumpkin is packed with vitamins and provides over 50 percent of the daily value of Vitamin K. Just be sure the label says “100 percent pumpkin” or “pureed pumpkin” and has no additives or preservatives.

Pampering with Pumpkin

When the leaves start turning and the air gets chilly, skin can suffer from the cold and wind. Pumpkin has amazing healing powers and gives your skin a glow like you just spent a week at a spa.

First of all, the molecules in pumpkin are tiny, so it easily penetrates the epidermis. It corrects dull complexion, uneven pigmentation and aging skin. Its fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) act as gentle exfoliates to make your skin brighter and smoother. The antioxidant Vitamin A and Vitamin C in pumpkin soften and calm the skin. It actually increases collagen production to inhibit the signs of aging. Pumpkin seeds can help those suffering from acne. They control hormone levels and oil production, increase the skin’s barrier function, and aid in healing of the skin.

You can make your own pumpkin facial at home from online recipes or find a pumpkin-based product at a reputable drug store or holistic product provider.

Pumpkin for Pets

pumpkin for pets health benefitsHang out long enough with pet owners and you’re bound to hear all kinds of ways to make them happier and healthier. Pumpkin is often touted for upset stomach relief, shinier coats and a better immune system for cats and dogs.

While there’s no scientific evidence pumpkin helps a pet’s skin, eyes, coat or immune system, the fiber in canned pumpkin helps their digestive tracts. Experts confirm it’s chiefly helpful in hairball prevention and correcting stools that are either too hard or too soft. The correct amount of canned pumpkin to add to their diet varies based on species and size. Before adding canned pumpkin to their dishes, consult your veterinarian for guidance.

Old School Pumpkin

Pumpkin is still most popular for eating. Taste tests found that regular canned pumpkin was the firmest and had the richest flavor. The organic canned was most watery. The fresh puree was the lightest and most velvety, with the lightest taste of the three.

Instead of using pureed pumpkin in traditional dishes, consider some of these ideas.  You can add pinches of warm spices such as cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to make the pumpkin flavor pop.

Breakfast – Stir into hot oatmeal, add it to smoothie ingredients, mix it into breakfast muffin batter, spread it on toasted bagels

Lunch & Dinner – Add texture and flavor to chili, charge up curry sauce, take mac and cheese to a new level, top shepherd’s pie, stuff ravioli, make compound butter

Sweets & Desserts – Customize a tiramisu base, break bread pudding rules, take soufflés to new heights, create a festive ice cream flavor.