The Trouble with Pumpkin

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

This week alone I’ve seen pumpkin-flavored breakfast cereal, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin Danish kringle, and pumpkin croissants for sale. And then there’s everyone’s favorite: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I love pumpkin! This time of year, I want to put pumpkin into everything too and eat it 24-7. But here’s the problem with “pumpkin” products: Pumpkin – as in, the actual squash – might not even be in them. That Pumpkin Spice Latte? There is no pumpkin on the ingredients list. And the ingredients are not good. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte contains: 380 calories, 49 grams of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, Annatto E160B color, “caramel color” E150D, “natural and artificial flavors,” 240 mg of salt, potassium sorbate E202, milk, espresso, whipped cream, and – the spices you know and love with a dash of sulfites.

That’s almost as scary as little girls dressing as Snooki for Halloween, am I right ladies?

If you’re buying pre-packaged pumpkin products, be sure to read the nutrition labels and check to see just how far down the list real pumpkin actually is. But, for my money, I want the real thing, with all of pumpkin’s wonderful health benefits intact.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin – and Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. “Superfood” may be an overused term, but in this case, it absolutely applies. Just one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, and they’re packed with cancer-fighting, eyesight-helping carotenoids, contain lots of fiber, and are very low in calories.

Pumpkin seeds are no slouch either – well worth the work of washing off the orange goo and roasting them in the oven after carving. They’re rich in zinc, tryptophan, and phytosterols, which lower cholesterol, boost your immune system, and even improve your mood.

Even pumpkin pie spice – the blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice – is very good for you. Cinnamon lowers cholesterol, ginger aids digestion, and all together, these spices present a compact and delicious way to consume antioxidants.

Unfortunately, creating that delicious pumpkin pie flavor also requires a lot of sugar – but there are ways to get the Autumn flavor you love without sacrificing your health, teeth, and waistline.

5 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

1. Health-Boosting Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe: Care2.com posted this recipe that I just love – and it uses real pumpkin puree! She does recommend substituting coffee for roasted dandelion root, but the recipe will work either way.

2. Easy Pumpkin Oatmeal: Using your favorite oatmeal, include a tablespoon of pumpkin puree with pumpkin pie spice and agave syrup to the mix – and don’t forget to top it with walnuts! The good fats and fiber make this a real breakfast of champions.

3. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pudding: GirlMakesFood blogger Alissa posted this recipe last year that uses maple syrup and almond milk with pumpkin, spice, and arrowroot (or corn starch) to create a healthy and vegan pumpkin dessert.

4. Coconut Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Take 4 cups pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 Tb coconut sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1/4th tsp salt, and mix them together, coating the seeds. Spread the seeds on a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 7 minutes. Stir and sprinkle with more coconut sugar, then bake for another 7 minutes – repeating 2 more times (for 1/2 hour total baking time). ***Try this recipe with curry powder instead of cinnamon and ginger also!

5. Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto: Sure, you could blend the pumpkin puree in with the slow-cooked quinoa for this risotto, but I love bringing some Italian flair to the recipe by using fresh wedges of cooked pumpkin instead, like this recipe does from the Times of Malta. Garnish with crispy brown butter-fried sage leaves if you’re so inclined.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin – So Good, it’s Scary

Jack-o'-lanterns
Only Jack-O’-Lanterns grin wider than I do during pumpkin season. While all winter squash is delicious there’s just something especially festive about pumpkins – and especially healthy. From canned pumpkin to pumpkin seeds – even pumpkin pie – the health benefits of pumpkin are scarily good.

Why Pumpkin Eaters Will Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

Just one cup of pumpkin contains 49 calories, more than 200% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A, lots of fiber, more potassium than a banana, and almost 20% of women’s recommended intake of Vitamin C.

All that means pumpkin-eaters will see better in dim light (handy for fighting the undead), and have their body’s balance of electrolytes restored since all that potassium improves muscle function (which you’ll need for endurance while running from those zombies!).

Pumpkin Seeds are a Ghoul’s Best Friend

A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, zinc, beta-carotene, and tryptophan (like Turkey).

Combined, these nutrients reduce wrinkles, and make you feel amazing (Tryptophan is most famous for inducing post-Thanksgiving snoozes, but it is also an important amino acid for producing serotonin – the feel-good chemical in your brain). They also lower bad cholesterol, boost the immune system, and prevent cancer. You’ll live so long, your neighbors might think you’re a member of the un-dead.

Pumpkin Pie Spices Up Your Love Life

As if sexy Halloween costumes weren’t enough to get you in the mood – that pumpkin pie (or pumpkin pie flavored body shot) at your Halloween party just might push you over the edge. The spices that makes pumpkin pie taste delicious are just as healthy as the gourd, with one very sexy added benefit.

Pumpkin Pie Spice is a mix of Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmeg. Not feeling “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” yet? You will after you read these fun facts:

Cinnamon has been linked to lowering bad cholesterol.
Powdered Ginger decreases blood pressure, aids digestion, and stimulates the circulatory system (great for your skin and increasing blood flow to… important places).
Cloves have a higher antioxidant content than any other food, boost memory, and help with flatulence (rather important for sexy activities).
Nutmeg has been said to work as a powerful aphrodisiac.

Live longer, feel happier, and have better sex? No wonder that Jack-o-Lantern is grinning.