Pumpkins are chock full of goodness. The bright color stems from carotenoids and Vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamins C and K and minerals like copper, magnesium and potassium.

Pumpkin can be stored for a week to as long as six months. To maintain such long life, choose a firm pumpkin and store it in a cool dark place, such as a pantry.

Pumpkin features a depth of flavor not found in other types of squash. Pumpkin recipes are naturally nutritious and can be made even healthier with low-carb and low-fat ingredients. Other vegetables and fruits can be added to boost the nutritive content as well as the taste.

What Goes Into These Recipes?

Pumpkins are more than just fun Halloween decorations; they are full of nature’s bounty and  delightful treats, especially during the cool fall season when pumpkins are so plentiful. For an appetizing touch, serve your soups and dips in a carved out pumpkin.

Pumpkin is used in dessert and soup recipes due to its natural sweetness and richness, not commonly found in other vegetables. This vegetable’s starchiness also makes it ideal for baking. Here are a couple of timeless, healthy pumpkin recipes.

Roasted pumpkin-apple soup – Combine  pumpkins with apple slices for a velvety pumpkin soup that makes a great first course. Apples provide a hint of sweetness and make the recipe more nutritious because apples are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Maple-pumpkin custards – Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pumpkin recipes. These elegant custards are made of pumpkin pie and real whipped cream, with maple syrup bringing its delightfully sinful and rich taste. Grade B dark amber syrup is recommended for that great maple flavor.

How Will They Benefit Me?

Pumpkin recipes are natural concoctions of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which may help the body develop resistance to prostate, breast and lung cancers. The antioxidant components help fight off disease-causing free radicals in the environment, while anti-inflammatory nutrients prevent allergic reactions inside the body.

Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, important nutrients formed from pigmentation in fruits and vegetables. Pumpkin recipes contribute to the health of skin and eyes because the liver can easily convert the carotenoids into Vitamin A. Lutein, a specific carotenoid abundant in pumpkins, promotes eye health and prevents macular eye degeneration.

Pumpkins can help maintain ideal blood sugar levels and insulin levels, preventing type 2 diabetes. This can be attributed to the abundance of five B-complex vitamins, namely Vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate and pantothenic acid.

Pumpkin can also help prevent development of cardiovascular ailments. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the risks of many cardiovascular conditions. Scientific studies have found that these nutrients partially block or curtail bad cholesterol formation (plaques) in human cells through inhibiting a specific type of enzyme. This is why pumpkin recipes are often included in many heart-healthy diets.

Encouraging stronger resistance to diseases, pumpkin recipes are rich in Vitamin C. This vegetable can be a rich source of dietary fiber, which promotes efficient digestion and easier bowel movement. It has copper that helps build up bones and manganese that promotes production of specific types of helpful enzymes in the body. Other beneficial nutrients include Vitamin K and potassium.

Lastly, because pumpkin is a starchy vegetable, pumpkin recipes provide calories for energy. Up to 90% of calories from pumpkins are in the form of starch carbohydrates, which the body uses to perform simple physical activities.

What Is Too Much?  

So nutritious, it is hard to associate pumpkin recipes with any health risks. However, some nutritionists warn against using pumpkins that are not organically grown. This means exposure to pesticides and might be dangerous if consumed in large quantities.

Pumpkin recipes may also contain purines or oxalates, albeit in a minimal amount. Some nutritionists warn that consuming too many pumpkin dishes may increase levels of both substances. Purines are associated with the onset of gout, a painful medical condition targeting the joints. Oxalates are often blamed for the development of kidney stones when excessively accumulated in the body.

Pumpkin recipes might contain too much salt or sugar. Beware of pumpkin soups containing high levels of salt, which could encourage hypertension and kidney problems.  Pumpkin dessert recipes may contain excessive sugar which could lead to unregulated blood sugar levels, diabetes and weight gain.

How Do I Make Recipes Healthier?

When making pumpkin recipes, cutting pumpkins properly will make a difference in retaining the overall nutritional content. To prevent overcooking and loss of nutrients during excessive heating, slice the pumpkin into 1-inch slices or cubes. This shape and size ensures all slices are effectively steamed or cooked, without applying too much heat.

Pumpkin recipes can be made more nutritious by adding specific healthy ingredients. To load it with carbohydrates, add bread, sugar and grains. When using pumpkin recipes which include dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese, it is healthier to substitute the low-fat versions of these. Lean meat, chicken, tuna, eggs and salmon can be included to make pumpkin dishes that are rich in protein.

Once a large component of the Native American diet, pumpkin is one of the oldest North American vegetables. With a mildly sweet flavor and fine starchy texture, its nutritional value is still being discovered. It’s not just for Thanksgiving, but can be enjoyed all year round.