By: Holly R. Layer
I would be remiss if I didn’t address everyone’s favorite fruit (yes, because it develops from the flower of the plant) this month: the pumpkin. The giant orange globes have been decorating doorsteps for weeks now, local pumpkin patches are crowded with young families and we’re all flocking to Starbucks for a PSL at the hint of a chill in air. What is it about the pumpkin that we like so much?
First, a little background: According to history.com, the tradition of pumpkin-carving came from Ireland, where the story of ‘Stingy Jack,’ his deals with the devil and the burning turnip he carried, which eventually led to the ‘jack-o’-lantern,’ a staple of Halloween here in America. Last year, 47% of US households carved their own pumpkin. Little-known fact: 90% of the pumpkins grown in the US come from a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Ill., and most of those are turned into pumpkin puree or pie mix. There are many different kinds of pumpkins, some bred for carving and some for eating. If you plan on buying a pumpkin for cooking, look for varieties such as: Cheese, Cinderella, Jarrahdale, Lumina, Peanut and Pie pumpkins.
Second, we probably associate fond memories of mom’s pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, along with the delightful smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, wafting every which way this time of year. Pumpkins represent the best of our childhood memories of fall: raking leaves, hayrides and sweet treats.
Finally, there really IS a lot to like about the pumpkin. Not only are pumpkins high in Vitamin A itself, they are also high in carotenoids, which our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Carotenoids are what give the yellow-orange color to fruits and vegetables, like carrots, and aid in vision and eyesight. Pumpkins are also high in fiber, which helps us feel full on fewer calories and could lead to weight loss, and their seeds have been shown to help lower our LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. Lastly, consider eating some pumpkin after a workout—they’re higher in potassium than bananas!
Here are some of my favorite pumpkin goodies—time to break out the loaf pan!
-Smoothie: ½ C pumpkin, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 C liquid
-Oatmeal: mix ¼ C pumpkin and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice into prepared oatmeal, top with granola
-Dip: replace roasted red peppers with pumpkin in your favorite hummus recipe
-Chili: add diced or canned pumpkin to any recipe
‘Made Over’ Pumpkin Bread
1/3 C butter
2 C sugar
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin or 3 C shredded zucchini (2-3 medium)
1/3 applesauce or buttermilk
1 ½ C all-purpose flour
1 ¾ C whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/3 raisins, soaked and drained
1/3 walnuts, toasted and chopped
Heat oven to 350 and grease 2 loaf pans.
Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs, pumpkin and applesauce or buttermilk. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. Add nuts/raisins if using. Pour into pans. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake 1 hour or until wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Servings: 24 Calories: 150
Holly R. Layer is a Registered Dietitian and a freelance writer. She works as a clinical dietitian at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda and also provides nutritional counseling at Weigel Health Center at Buffalo State College, as well as teaching fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA. She lives in the village with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native. She blogs at www.thehealthypineapple.com and her work appears monthly in the Refresh Buffalo Blog. Questions to Holly can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.