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Pick a Pumpkin!

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist

Fall means colorful decorations and lots of options for colorful food. How about some pumpkin on your plate as more than a decoration?

Pumpkin is packed with nutrients. Naturally low in fat and sodium, pumpkin has about 50 calories and three grams of fiber per cup. It’s an excellent source of beta-carotene, the pigment responsible for pumpkin’s orange color. Our bodies need beta-carotene to make vitamin A, which helps keep skin and tissues healthy, helps our eyes see normally in the dark and works as an antioxidant nutrient that could lower our risk for certain kinds of cancer.

Pumpkin also provides zeaxanthin, a natural pigment (colorant) that may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a potentially blinding eye disease. Pumpkin provides several minerals, including magnesium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus, which our bodies need to maintain good health.

Pick A Pumpkin

You can prepare your pumpkin recipes with canned or fresh pumpkin. When choosing a pumpkin, get the right one for the job. Pumpkins for decorative purposes usually are larger,
with stringier pulp. Sugar pumpkins generally are smaller, less stringy and work well in recipes.

To prepare your pumpkin for recipes, wash it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and microwave, bake or boil the pumpkin until the pulp is soft. Remove the skin, then mash it by hand or purée it in a food processor or blender.

Don’t toss the pumpkin seeds; they’re fiber-rich snacks. After removing the pumpkin pulp, wash off the seeds and blot them with a paper towel. Toss them with a little olive oil or vegetable oil, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees until light brown (40 to 50 minutes), stirring about every five to 10 minutes. If you like, add seasoned salt or other spices of choice.

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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