Once Autumn is in full swing the best foods that you can eat at that time of year is the pumpkin. You can help to protect your bladder and/or prostate, treat depression, prevent osteoporosis and even treat parasite by getting a good dose of pumpkin seeds and pumpkin flesh in your diet, so take full advantage while it’s readily available!
Pumpkin flesh is full of goodness, it contains essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre.
It is absolutely packed out with vitamin A and is also a good source of vitamins C, E & K as well as antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes and minerals potassium, magnesium and iron.
The seeds are fantastic too.
The seeds which are called pepitas are full of minerals and are well known for their anti-inflammatory effects and protection against osteoporosis and prostate cancer.
I recommend that you soak pumpkin seeds in water for 8-12 hours before you eat them because they neutralise the action of something called enzyme inhibitors.
These have an important role for the seeds and how they work to grow into plants, as they prevent a seed from sprouting prematurely, however they can put tension on your digestive system. Enzyme inhibitors are tiny molecules that interact with enzymes in your body and prevent them from working correctly. By soaking the pumpkin seeds in water, enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and beneficial enzymes are encouraged.
Remember to rinse the seeds well after soaking as the water around them is acidic.
You can then use them immediately or dehydrate them and store them.
If you store them without drying them they will go mouldy.
How can I eat pumpkin and pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin is actually quite filling so you could have a good helping of it at a meal instead of meat as part of a healthy vegan diet. Pumpkin can be kept for 6 months whole and you can buy pumpkin seeds from health food shops throughout the year, so you can get better from this wonderful vegetable all year.
You could have a lovely warm pumpkin salad with cubes of pumpkin flesh, rocket leaves, and pumpkin seeds.
You can also stuff and bake it, just hollow the seeds out of a small pumpkin, stuff it with bread, roasted garlic, spices, and Alpro soya cream, put the lid back on and bake it at 190ºc on a large tray with the seeds spread around the bottom for 30 minutes. When it’s done, serve it up on a large plate, slice and serve.
Another great way to eat pumpkin is to have a pumpkin stir-fry. Pack it out with healthy vegetables and you’ve got a healthy winter meal!
And once Halloween approaches there will no doubt be many pumpkins that go to waste after they have served their purpose as a novel candle holder.
What’s so great about Pumpkins?
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family and are packed full of some fantastic nutrients.
It contains a whole host of different nutrients that play important roles within the body:
- Carotenoids – a wide variety from lutein to beta-carotene. In fact, pumpkin made it into the top three food sources for these health-supporting antioxidants.
- Pectin – this is a starchy source of fibre from the cell walls of the plant. It has shown anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
- Vitamin C – 200g of pumpkin contains over a quarter of our daily recommendation. Vitamin is vital for a healthy immune system, brain health and acts a potent antioxidant within the body.
- B vitamins – pumpkin contain vitamin B2, B3, B5 and B6 which contribute towards nerve and muscle health as well as providing us with energy throughout the day.
- Zinc – its not only the flesh of the pumpkin that contains beneficial nutrients, the seeds inside the pumpkin contain high levels of zinc. This mineral is a key factor in the healthy regulation of immunity, reproduction, skin and eye health.
What can I do with my Pumpkin?
Pumpkins are incredibly versatile; here are just a few suggestions on how to make the most out of your pumpkin after Halloween:
- Roast wedges of pumpkin. After peeling the tough skin and scooping out the seeds (keep for later!) chop the squash into wedges and coat in coconut oil, sprinkle with paprika, cinnamon and salt and pepper and roast for around 30 mins or until soft.
- Creamy pumpkin mash. Again, peel and remove the seeds before chopping into bite-size chunks and boiling in water and a pinch of salt. When soft, mash with butter, olive, and seasoning for a wonderful accompaniment to any dish.
- Spicy roasted pumpkin seeds. These make for a delicious snack, crunch and flavoursome. First, rinse the seeds to get rid of any residual flesh, then lay on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season with any spices and herbs you fancy. Chilli, fennel and cumin all work well. Roast them at 180oC for 10 mins or until golden brown. Eat as a snack or sprinkle on top of salads or other dishes.
- Make pumpkin brownies (yes really!). These are such a revelation and a wonderful treat that can be enjoyed by all. Boil around 600g of pumpkin flesh until soft. Add 1 cup of ground almonds, 1/2 cup of flour of your choice, 12 medjool dates, 2 eggs, 4 tbsps of raw cacao, 3 tbsps of maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Blitz all the ingredients, spread into a baking tray and cook for around 20 mins.
So before reaching for the nearest bin on the 1st November, take a little thought and time to make use of your Jack O’Latern and transform it into something really delicious and nutritious!
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