Don’t relegate pumpkins to just the Halloween season – to carve out faces and use as lanterns. Instead this time round, enjoy the benefits of pumpkins… and you would not believe the ways in which this humble vegetable can help our bodies!
Nutritious and delicately flavored; pumpkins are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium and minerals; low in fat and sodium and cholesterol free. Pumpkins are popular as the dieter’s best pal. Pumpkins are a good source of fiber; the beta-carotene in pumpkins delays aging and prevents cancer as well as heart disease. Water content in pumpkins is about 90%. One cup of pumpkin contains about 180 calories. Fresh pumpkins can be used for cooking; canned pumpkin purée can serve well for cakes and pumpkin bread. Fresh pumpkin purée can be made by roasting the pumpkin.
In case you decide to use fresh pumpkins instead of canned pumpkin puree, make sure you choose the right pumpkin.
- Sugar or pie pumpkins are the best varieties to make bread, muffins, pie, etc. They have thick stems and more flesh.
- Choose pumpkins that weigh heavy.
- Choose pumpkins that are evenly colored.
- Choose pumpkins that are small and sweet.
- Avoid large field grown pumpkins as they are very fibrous, these pumpkins are used mainly as jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.
- Pumpkins should have dark orange flesh.
- A medium sized sugar pumpkin weighing about 4 pounds will yield about 11/2 cups of purée.
- Make sure there are no soft spots on the pumpkin.
Fresh pumpkin puree
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Divide the pumpkin into halves and remove the seeds.
- Remove the fibrous/gristly pulp.
- On a baking sheet place the pumpkins (cut side downwards).
- Bake for about an hour, check if the pulp is tender and soft, by piercing it with a fork.
- Spoon out the soft pulp and use it for any recipe.
Benefits of pumpkin seeds
The seeds found within the pumpkin are chockfull of nutrients too. Roast them, even season them and you have a wonderful snack that is full of goodness. Pumpkin seed oil is said to have health-promoting potential. It is believed to have curative properties for urinary tract infection as well as unsaturated fatty acids and most vitamins.
If you thought that the benefits of pumpkins were restricted to health issues, you couldn’t be further from the truth! Use it as a beauty aid to soothe and protect your skin.