The Trouble with Pumpkin
This week alone I’ve seen pumpkin-flavored breakfast cereal, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin Danish kringle, and pumpkin croissants for sale. And then there’s everyone’s favorite: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I love pumpkin! This time of year, I want to put pumpkin into everything too and eat it 24-7. But here’s the problem with “pumpkin” products: Pumpkin – as in, the actual squash – might not even be in them. That Pumpkin Spice Latte? There is no pumpkin on the ingredients list. And the ingredients are not good. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte contains: 380 calories, 49 grams of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, Annatto E160B color, “caramel color” E150D, “natural and artificial flavors,” 240 mg of salt, potassium sorbate E202, milk, espresso, whipped cream, and – the spices you know and love with a dash of sulfites.
That’s almost as scary as little girls dressing as Snooki for Halloween, am I right ladies?
If you’re buying pre-packaged pumpkin products, be sure to read the nutrition labels and check to see just how far down the list real pumpkin actually is. But, for my money, I want the real thing, with all of pumpkin’s wonderful health benefits intact.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin – and Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. “Superfood” may be an overused term, but in this case, it absolutely applies. Just one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, and they’re packed with cancer-fighting, eyesight-helping carotenoids, contain lots of fiber, and are very low in calories.
Pumpkin seeds are no slouch either – well worth the work of washing off the orange goo and roasting them in the oven after carving. They’re rich in zinc, tryptophan, and phytosterols, which lower cholesterol, boost your immune system, and even improve your mood.
Even pumpkin pie spice – the blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice – is very good for you. Cinnamon lowers cholesterol, ginger aids digestion, and all together, these spices present a compact and delicious way to consume antioxidants.
Unfortunately, creating that delicious pumpkin pie flavor also requires a lot of sugar – but there are ways to get the Autumn flavor you love without sacrificing your health, teeth, and waistline.
5 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
1. Health-Boosting Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe: Care2.com posted this recipe that I just love – and it uses real pumpkin puree! She does recommend substituting coffee for roasted dandelion root, but the recipe will work either way.
2. Easy Pumpkin Oatmeal: Using your favorite oatmeal, include a tablespoon of pumpkin puree with pumpkin pie spice and agave syrup to the mix – and don’t forget to top it with walnuts! The good fats and fiber make this a real breakfast of champions.
3. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pudding: GirlMakesFood blogger Alissa posted this recipe last year that uses maple syrup and almond milk with pumpkin, spice, and arrowroot (or corn starch) to create a healthy and vegan pumpkin dessert.
4. Coconut Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Take 4 cups pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 Tb coconut sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1/4th tsp salt, and mix them together, coating the seeds. Spread the seeds on a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 7 minutes. Stir and sprinkle with more coconut sugar, then bake for another 7 minutes – repeating 2 more times (for 1/2 hour total baking time). ***Try this recipe with curry powder instead of cinnamon and ginger also!
5. Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto: Sure, you could blend the pumpkin puree in with the slow-cooked quinoa for this risotto, but I love bringing some Italian flair to the recipe by using fresh wedges of cooked pumpkin instead, like this recipe does from the Times of Malta. Garnish with crispy brown butter-fried sage leaves if you’re so inclined.