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Nutrition: Pump it up with pumpkin

Category: St. Luke’s Proud
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Tammy Licari, St. Luke's

By Tammy Licari, For the Duluth News Tribune

Pumpkins come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. The foods we add to our plate should also come in all different shapes, sizes and color to maximize the nutritional content on our plate. Let’s take a closer look at the different uses and benefits pumpkin can provide.

One of the most common uses for pumpkin is decorating, followed by cooking pumpkin inspired foods and beverages. Pumpkins, including the stems also provide feed for livestock or can be easily composted. This unique vegetable, which is relative to squash, may get a bad rap because it is a carbohydrate.

Those following low-carbohydrate meal plans may perceive fruits and starchy vegetables as being too high in sugar and therefore are reluctant to include these foods in a balanced meal plan. Rest assured this iconic fall produce is fully loaded with nutrients and should be included any season.

Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A. The vitamin is beneficial for eye health and supports the immune system. Pumpkin also offers vitamins C, E and B, potassium, iron and magnesium. In addition, pumpkin provides protein and fiber.

Cooking with pumpkin is very versatile and can be enjoyed with meals or snacks any time of the day. Start your day with a scrumptious pumpkin muffin or blend together for a pumpkin smoothie. Toss in other fruits such as a banana for added nutrients. Dabble in pumpkin soup or pumpkin chili at lunch and mix pumpkin into a lasagna and serve in the evening. Snacking on pumpkin may be more your style while enjoying the healthful benefits of pumpkin bars, pumpkin spice cupcakes or pumpkin custard.

Don’t forget to save the seeds once you are done carving your jack-o'-lantern. Pumpkin seeds boast a variety of nutrients including magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron and copper. The seeds contain fiber and heart-healthy fat and you wouldn’t need much more than an ounce per serving to reap the benefits.

Pumpkin seeds can easily be enjoyed with meals and snacks. Try adding some with yogurt or make a yogurt parfait, trail mix, top off a salad or bowl of oatmeal with pumpkin seeds. Seeds alone also make for a quick and easy snack.

Canned pumpkin is always a great option and just as nutritious for those who want to bypass the dirty work dissecting and cooking pumpkins at home. When shopping for canned pumpkin, be sure to choose 100% pure pumpkin. Oftentimes, the label on the front of the can will specify 100% pure pumpkin. You can also check out the food label on the back. Be sure it only lists pumpkin under the ingredients.

The recipe below offers a nice little combination by including milk, eggs and vegetables. Enjoy as a side dish, with breakfast or as dessert paired with your favorite pie crust recipe.

Pumpkin custard

Recipe from "Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family" by Ellyn Satter.

  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 15-ounce can milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • Pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Beat the pumpkin, milk and eggs together in a large bowl.

Mix the sugar, spices and salt in a separate bowl.

Combine the two mixtures and pour them into a 2 ½-quart glass casserole dish. Bake uncovered for one hour. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

This article was originally published in the Duluth News Tribune's print edition on Wednesday, October 26, 2022.