Wellness Encyclopedia: The Many Benefits of Pumpkin

Now that Halloween has officially passed, one question remains: What to do with all these pumpkins?

While they may look cute on our doorsteps and as centerpieces on our tables, pumpkins also happen to be delicious and incredibly healthy. It’s funny if you think about it, for the longest time there’s been a huge disconnect between the pumpkins we carve into Jack-o’-lanterns and use to decorate our homes with and the pumpkin puree we love for pumpkin pies and pumpkin flavor we happily add to our coffees. Why is this? Frankly, those plump orange squash (squashes?) deserve better! Today we’re discussing the many benefits of pumpkin and I’m sharing the surprisingly simple process of making your own pumpkin puree – perfect timing if you ask me, with Thanksgiving now on the horizon! Read on, and happy November!

What is pumpkin?

A cultivar – or variety – of squash, pumpkin actually refers to a surprisingly large category of plants, differentiated from other types of squash by their angular, prickly stems (squash stems are rounder, smoother and, well, less angular). Native to North America, nearly all parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the leaves, seeds, flowers, and shell and even green, unripe pumpkins can be prepared the same way as zucchini and other squash. Pie pumpkin is the most popular variety for cooking, but – surprise! – most commercially available pumpkin puree also contains other types of squash, including butternut and acorn. While these varieties also taste amazing, if you’re looking to make a true pumpkin pie or a pure pumpkin soup, the method below is your best bet for pure pumpkin-y goodness.

Benefits of pumpkin:

Not surprisingly, bright orange pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene and vitamin A, meaning pumpkin can help support strong vision and healthy-looking skin. Pumpkin is also great for the digestive system in both humans and our animal companions! Generally considered safe for consumption for dogs and cats (however, always, always consult your vet before introducing your pet to a new food), a little pumpkin can aid in digestive issues thanks to its high level of fibre. Rich in dietary fibre, along with aiding in issues related to digestion, winter squash like pumpkin can help keep you feeling fuller, longer, making it a great addition to your morning smoothie or oatmeal. And don’t toss the seeds! Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds contains tryptophan, which could help you get a good night’s sleep.

How do you use it?

Besides pie and lattes, pumpkin is surprisingly versatile, allowing its mild flavor to be played up or played down, depending on what you’re going for, flavor-wise. Try adding a scoop to your AM green smoothie for a filling fibre boost, or mixing a tablespoon of pumpkin puree (not pie filling) into your overnight oats. Pumpkin can also be roasted in the same manner as butternut squash and added to salads, used as a side dish, or even stuffed and served as the main course. Pumpkin can also be added to soups and stews for flavor and filling fibre.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients:

1 small to medium pie pumpkin

Tools:

Sharp knife
Roasting pan or large deep baking dish

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Remove the stem on your pumpkin and slice the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and set seeds aside (you can use them to make roasted pumpkin seeds later!).

Place pumpkin halves sliced-side down in the roasting pan and add 1 inch of water. Carefully slide the roasting pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the pumpkin. Carefully remove from the oven when done and allow to cool.

Once cool, remove the pumpkin halves from the pan and scoop out the soft flesh with a large spoon. Place in a resealable container and store in the fridge for up to a week. Congrats! You’ve just made your own pumpkin puree!

A few seasonal pumpkin recipes to try:

+ Find even more pumpkin ideas here!

+ Check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts.

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