Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Staying on track with the Halloween theme this week, I thought I'd give a quick shout out to both Charlie Brown and the nutrient-packed pumpkin. Can't get much better than this bright orange winter squash when it comes to health benefits and taste. Pumpkin blows many other vegetables away with it's beta-carotene/carotenoid content -- carotenoids are a type of antioxidant that helps prevent disease/cancer and gives pumpkin its vibrant color. Pumpkin also contains other types of antioxidants, lutein and ziazanthin which promote eye health and lower the risk of macular degeneration. Pumpkin blows nutritional charts out of the water in vitamin C and potassium and is a good source of dietary fiber. Surprisingly, canned pumpkin is much higher in beta-carotene (vitamin A) -- nearly 10 times greater thanks to its nutrient concentration and low water content. Pumpkin's a healthful addition to muffins, pies, cookies, and breads as well as just on it's own. Cut into chunks and roast it up just like you would squash (drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper) for a nutrient-rich side dish or to toss into a seasonal salad. Make a pureed pumpkin soup spiced with curry and diced apple. And don’t forget about pumpkin seeds which contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats and may help lower cholesterol levels. Love those crunchy little suckers, but think of them like you do nuts...a little goes a long way. They pack in alot of healthy fats and protein, but can also rack up in calories quickly so aim for a small handful per serving. Don't trash the seeds after carving your pumpkin, here's an easy recipe for roasting them.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
season with salt to taste
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Combine the butter, spices, Worcestershire sauce and pumpkin seeds. Mix thoroughly and place in shallow baking dish. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Makes about 10-12 servings
Nutrition facts: 210 calories, 17g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 12g protein

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