Fall is here, and it's finally time to show off your new sweater and sexy thigh high boots. You're also ready to spend more time in the kitchen testing out your culinary skills on the season's best ingredients, including a very special fruit: The pumpkin.
Though commonly referred to as a vegetable, the pumpkin is technically a fruit because it grows on a vine and contains seeds. No matter what you call it, the pumpkin is a powerhouse of nutrition, containing significant amounts of vitamins (A, C, K, E), antioxidants (beta-carotenes), and minerals (magnesium, potassium, iron). It's also naturally low in fat and calories, and contains five grams of fiber in just a half-cup serving.
Skip the Spanx!
Though pumpkin by itself is a healthy choice, pumpkin pie...not so much! Indulging in just one small slice of pie will set you back approximately 323 calories, 31 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of fat (5 grams saturated fat)! If you want to enjoy the holidays without packing on the pounds, try some healthy alternatives such as Spiced Pumpkin Cookies, and Pumpkin Tacos.
We always recommend that you use the fresh version of fruit when available, but for those who prefer to tromp through the grocery aisles instead of the pumpkin patch, canned pumpkin is just as nutritious. Just make sure you choose an organic brand in a BPA-free can.
Taking Care of Your Pumpkin
If cooking is not your thing, you can put your pumpkin on display instead of in the oven. Just follow these recommendations to maintain its color and quality for up to 3 months.
If displaying outdoors:
• Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight.
• If you live in a cold climate, have a blanket ready to protect your pumpkin from frostbite.
If storing indoors:
• Do not place on a wooden table, or on a carpet unless you want a leaky mess.
• Instead, put a cloth or a piece of cardboard between the pumpkin and the surface.
And if you're having a Martha Stewart Halloween moment and decide to carve a Jack-O'-lantern, please don't throw away the seeds! Pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) contain omega-3 fatty acids as well other healthy nutrients. They can be eaten raw or toasted, thrown in a salad or on your morning cereal, or simply as a delicious snack.
Here's to pumpkin power!
Image: JD Hancock