Keeping Your Pumpkin Recipes Healthy
11/02/2012 | 04:39 PM
Pumpkin is chock full of goodness. Its bright color is an instant indication that it loaded with carotenoids and Vitamin A. It is also a good source of Vitamins C and K as well as important minerals like copper, magnesium, and potassium.
What makes pumpkin ideal for many recipes is the fact that it can be stored for a week to as long as six months. To last as long as possible, it’s important to choose a firm pumpkin and store it in a cool dark place, such as a pantry.
Pumpkin is ideal for cooking various dishes because it features a depth of flavor not found in other types of squash. Pumpkin recipes are naturally nutritious but they can be made even healthier by using low-carb and low-fat ingredients. Other vegetables and even fruits can be added to boost not just the nutritive content but also the taste.
What Goes Into Pumpkin Recipes?
It is certainly fun to use pumpkins as Halloween decorations, however, making use of nature’s bounty is an extra pleasure. Such recipes can be delightful treats especially during the cool fall season when pumpkins are so plentiful. You can even serve your soups and dips in a carved out pumpkin to make your meals more fun, appetizing, and indulgent.
Most pumpkin recipes are desserts and soups. This can be attributed to the fact that pumpkin has a natural sweetness and richness that is uncommon in other vegetables. The starchiness of the vegetable also makes it ideal for baking. Here are some of the most popular healthy pumpkin recipes that have been passed across the generations.
Roasted pumpkin-apple soup – Pumpkins are combined with slices of apples in this dish. The result is a velvety pumpkin soup that can be served as a first course for a delightful meal. Apples provide the hint of sweetness to the soup. They also make the recipe more nutritious because apples are rich not just in vitamins and minerals but also antioxidants.
Maple-pumpkin custards – Thanksgiving meals can never be complete without pumpkin recipes. This one is among the most commonly served during the occasion. Maple syrup makes it ideally sinful and rich. Grade B dark amber syrup is recommended to bring about that great maple flavor. The elegant custards are made of pumpkin pie and real whipped cream.
Healthy or Hazardous: Are Pumpkin Recipes Good For You?
Pumpkin recipes are natural concoctions of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Thus, such dishes can potentially help the human body develop resistance to specific types of cancer, like those involving the prostate (in men), breasts (in women), and lungs. The antioxidant components help the body fight off disease-causing free radicals from environmental sources while the anti-inflammatory nutrients help fight off allergic reactions inside the body.
Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, important health nutrients formed from the pigmentation in fruits and vegetables. Thus, pumpkin recipes are cited as ideal to help maintain the health of your skin and eyes. This is because the liver can easily convert the carotenoids found in pumpkin into Vitamin A. Lutein is a specific type of carotenoid that is also abundant in pumpkin. It is particularly important in promoting eye health and preventing macular eye degeneration.
Pumpkins can help regulate the blood sugar level and in the process help prevent type 2 diabetes. According to nutritionists, pumpkin recipes can help maintain ideal blood sugar and insulin levels in the system. This can be attributed to the abundance of five B-complex vitamins, namely Vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate, and pantothenic acid.
Pumpkin recipes can also help prevent development of cardiovascular ailments. As mentioned, pumpkins are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components, which are ideal nutrients for reducing the risks of many cardiovascular conditions. Scientific studies have found that the nutrients can 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.
To support stronger resistance against diseases, pumpkin recipes are rich in Vitamin C as well. The vegetable can also be a rich source of dietary fiber, which promotes healthier digestion and easier bowel movement. It has copper that helps build up the bones and manganese that promotes production of specific types of helpful enzymes in the body. Other beneficial nutrients contained include Vitamin K and potassium.
Lastly, because pumpkin is a starchy vegetable, pumpkin recipes can be good sources of calories for energy. Up to 90% of calories sourced from pumpkins are in the form of starch carbohydrates, which are easily used by the body through performing simple physical activities.
Pay Attention to Your Pumpkins
Because pumpkin does not usually come with nutrients or substances that are hazardous to one’s health, it is hard to associate most pumpkin recipes with any health risks. However, some nutritionists warn about the possibility that pumpkins used in recipes may not be organically grown. This means exposure to certain types of pesticides may make pumpkins dangerous when consumed out of moderation.
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.
Some pumpkin recipes may contain excessive salt or sugar. Beware not to over-consume pumpkin soups since the level of sodium or salt they contain may be high in order to provide ideal taste. Similarly, pumpkin dessert recipes may contain large quantities of sugar in order to make them sweeter, creamier, and richer. Consumption of too much salt may lead to hypertension and kidney problems while high amounts of sugar may lead to unregulated blood sugar level, diabetes, and excessive weight gain.
How To Make Healthier Pumpkin Recipes
When making pumpkin recipes, the right cut of pumpkins will make a difference in retaining the optimal nutritional content. Naturally, some nutrients are lost during excessive heating. Slicing the pumpkin into 1-inch slices or cubes is ideal. This is the best shape and size to make sure all slices are effectively steamed or cooked, preventing the need to apply too much heat that leads to overcooking and elimination of more nutrients.
Pumpkin recipes can be made more nutritious and healthier by adding specific healthy ingredients. To load it with carbohydrates, the dishes can feature added flour, bread, sugar, and grains. Some pumpkin recipes require the addition of dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese. It is ideal to use the low-fat versions of such dairies. Lean meat, chicken, tuna, eggs, and salmon can be used to make pumpkin recipes that are rich in protein.
Pumpkin is one of the oldest North American vegetables, and yet with growing research, we are still discovering facts about its nutrition value, mildly sweet flavor, and fine starchy texture. Pumpkin was once a significant component of Native Americans’ diet. It is just amazing how different pumpkin recipes have been passed down from generation to generation —and not just for Thanksgiving! You can opt to enjoy pumpkin recipes all year round. They will make delicious and nutritious meals for just about everyone and every occasion.