Pumpkin season

10372686104_6d62db6475It’s pumpkin time! When you carve that Halloween  pumpkin, think about adding pumpkin to your diet. Pumpkin pulp and seeds are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

From savory suppers to decadent desserts, there are numerous ways to cook with pumpkin. Whether you use fresh pumpkin or canned purée, both are equally nutritious. Here are eight good reasons to cook with pumpkin:

  1. Eye health

The orange colour in pumpkin is due to its high content of carotenoids – those powerful antioxidants that keep your eyes healthy. Pumpkin also contains Lutein and Zeanxantin that protect your eyes against degenerative diseases and cataracts.

  1. Cardiovascular health

The carotenoids and vitamin E in pumpkin are good for your circulation and reduce your risk of forming blood clots. Pumpkin is also high in potassium and magnesium – two important minerals that help regulate your heart and blood pressure. The seeds are rich in phytosterols – plant-based chemicals that help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

  1. Bone health

The minerals zinc and magnesium in pumpkin help keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong.

  1. Boosts your immune system

Vitamins A, E and C found in pumpkin help your body fight off infections.

  1. Protects against cancer and arthritis

Pumpkin contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-carotene can protect against joint inflammation and arthiritis. It also plays a role in cancer prevention. Phytosterols found in pumpkin seeds can lower the risk of prostate cancer in men.

  1. Boosts your mood and protects from depression

Both pumpkin and seeds contain the compound L-tryptophan that helps your body produce serotonin – a chemical that boosts your mood and prevents depression. Pumpkin and seeds are also a rich source of essential fatty acids necessary for brain health.

  1. Controls your weight and blood sugars

Pumpkin is rich in fibre and very low in calories. The high fibre lowers LDL cholesterol, regulates blood sugars and promotes healthy digestion.

  1. Skin health

Vitamins A, C and E and Zinc in pumpkin can prevent premature wrinkling and give your skin a healthy glow.

Here’s a pumpkin soup recipe that I’ve been making for years. You can make it anytime during the year, but it’s a real treat on a cold winter day!

Curried pumpkin soup with coriander

4-6 servings

Preparation time: 2o-30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooking onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic buds, pressed and skin discarded
  • 1 large apple (preferably tart), peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 medium-size carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups (about 1 1/2 lbs or 700 gm) pumpkin flesh, cubed*
  • 2 medium size potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon shredded ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4-5 cups (about a litre) of homemade vegetable or chicken broth (or bouillon cubes + water).
  • A small pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce or whatever you think will give your soup a kick! Sometimes, I infuse a jalapeno pepper by poking holes in it with a fork and I take it out when the soup is done.
  • Some sea salt and ground pepper
  • A generous bunch of finely chopped fresh coriander

Procedure

Chop and prepare all ingredients first. Add oil to a large non-stick soup pot and heat on medium-high. When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion and garlic and stir for 2 minutes, until soft. Add apple, carrot, pumpkin and potatoes and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add curry, ginger and cumin spices and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add broth. You may need to adjust here – the broth should be just enough to cover the vegetables. You can add more broth later if you want a more fluid soup. Add hot sauce, or cayenne or jalapeno or whatever. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 25 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

Purée directly in the pot with hand held blender (it’s the easiest way) or transfer to a food processor then back to pot. Adjust spices to your taste. Add salt and pepper and stir in chopped coriander. Serve.

* You need a chef’s knife for chopping and peeling a pumpkin. It’s better to buy a pumpkin that’s already quartered and is equivalent to 4 cups. I chop a store-bought quartered pumpkin in manageable slices and chop off the end peel, one slice at a time. Alternatively, you can buy frozen pumpkin already peeled, cubed and bagged.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 3o0°F (150°C). Take out the seeds from the pumpkin, about 1 1/2 cups. It’s OK if you have some strings and pulp on your seeds (it adds flavour). Take off the bigger chunks though. Put the raw seeds in a bowl and add a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Toss well. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally. Have as a snack or sprinkle on soups or salads. Pumpkin seeds  are really good for you!

Have a great autumn!

First photo courtesy of: Rob Gross
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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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