The Unexpected Health Benefits of Pumpkin

by

The Unexpected Health Benefits of Pumpkin

by

It’s time to usher in the fall!

I get so excited when I start to see pumpkins and pomegranates everywhere I go to shop for food. It signals the start of the holidays, cozy blankets, candles, sweaters, and wood-burning fireplaces.

My family has already made our trip to the pumpkin patch and chosen our pumpkins—some for carving and some for eating. I love all the different ways you can prepare and enjoy pumpkins, which is

I wanted to give you a bit of information on the benefits of adding pumpkin into your diet. I also share my recipe for Pumpkin Apple Soup with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

BENEFITS OF PUMPKIN

Eyesight: A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkins contains more that 200% of recommended daily intake of Vitamin A! I’ve spoken about foods rich in carotenoids before. Those are the compounds that give pumpkins their bright orange colors and that includes beta-carotene.

Heart: Seeds and nuts including pumpkin seeds are rich in a plant-based chemical called phytosterols, which studies show reduce LDL or bad cholesterol. Don’t throw away the seeds after you carve your pumpkin clean and dry them out and roast them in the oven for a healthy snack. I sprinkle them on salads, stir them in my yogurt and use them in my granola recipe.

Cancer Risk: Pumpkins are a rich source of beta-carotene and may reduce cancer risk, according to the National Cancer Institute.  Foods rich in beta-carotene helps protect the skin and can boost your mood and immune system.

There are so many ways to include pumpkins in your diet. Besides the obvious pumpkin pie, there’s also pumpkin soup, risotto, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, waffles, pancakes, cheesecake, cupcakes and the ever so famous “Pumpkin Spiced Latte”!

SPREAD THE WARMTH
Today’s recipe is a delicious, hearty feel-good “Pumpkin Apple Soup” to warm your body and soul. There is nothing better to take the chill off a cold autumn or winters day than to sit and enjoy a hot, creamy satisfying bowl of soup! I garnish the soup with roasted pumpkin seeds so I included the recipe for that as well!

PUMPKIN APPLE SOUP
Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion peeled and sliced
4 scallions chopped in pieces
1 tablespoons dry sherry
1 green apple peeled, seeded and chopped into chunks. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice over apple, set aside
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-20 ounce can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken stock

GARNISH
1/2 cups sour cream
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts
6 to 8 tablespoons walnut oil
2 scallions sliced thin on a diagonal (green part, too)
1 jalapeno sliced thin
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

In a soup pot on medium high, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add onion and scallions and sauté 8 to 10 minutes until the onions start to caramelize. Add sherry, apple, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and mix. Add pumpkin puree and 1 quart of the vegetable or chicken stock. Save the extra ½ quart to thin the soup after simmering if you find it too thick. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Pour the soup mixture into a blender for 1 minute or until smooth and creamy.  At this point, if you find the soup is too thick, add more stock—½ cup at a time. You want the soup creamy, smooth and not heavy or thick.  Pour the soup back into the pot and bring to a gentle boil.

Turn off the heat and ladle into heated soup bowls. I rinse the bowls in hot water before I put the hot soup in to take the chill off the bowl. It helps keep soup hot. Or, I place the bowls in the oven for 10 minutes at 200F. (Use oven mitts to remove the bowls.)

GARNISH

Per serving, add a dollop, (1 teaspoon soup cream), then sprinkle with 1 teaspoons of pumpkin seeds or walnuts, 2 teaspoons of walnut oil, some scallions, 3 slices of jalapeno, and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

INGREDIENTS
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cup pumpkin seeds
½ teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon chili
½ teaspoon ground cumin

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat 350 F. Scrape out the seeds of your pumpkin and make sure your remove any unwanted pumpkin rinds and slimy threads.  Soak and clean seeds in a bowl of cool water for an hour then drain. Fill a small pot with water and a ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil add seeds and boil gently for 10 to 12 minutes.

Pour the seeds on paper towels and pat dry. Place clean and dried seeds aside in a bowl add olive oil and toss.  In a small bowl whisk garlic and onion powder, salt, cayenne pepper, chili and cumin. Add to seeds and toss making sure to coat the seeds.

Spread the seeds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, checking every ten minutes to make sure they are not burning.  Shake the baking sheet halfway through roasting. Keep an eye on the seeds to avoid burning them. Remove from oven and cool.

Enjoy pumpkin seeds as a snack, tossed in salads, in cereal, on yogurt, and in smoothies!

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