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Food of the Month: Pumpkin

November is finally here and with it the smell of pumpkins everywhere: pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin scented lotion, pumpkin scented candles and even pumpkin scented kitty litter (yep it's a real thing)! This well-known gourd is everywhere but how much do you really know about it!

What Is It?

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family along with cucumbers, honeydew melons, watermelons, cantaloupe and zucchini. They are native to Central America and Mexico but now grow on six continents. They have been grown in North America for the past five thousand years. Although we typically refer to a pumpkin as a vegetable, it is scientifically a fruit since it contains seeds.

Health Benefits:

 
  1. Pumpkins are rich in Vitamin A containing 245% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  2. Pumpkins are 94% water and very low in calories.
  3. Pumpkins contain other vitamins such as C, E and B2 as well as iron, potassium, manganese and copper.
  4. Pumpkins are high in fiber. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides 2.5 grams of fiber which is 10% of the RDI. Fiber is important for increasing satiety, decreasing cholesterol and improving blood glucose levels.  Even better, canned pumpkin delivers 7 grams of fiber per cup and is 28% of the RDI.
  5. Pumpkins contain alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin all of which are powerful anti-oxidants working to minimize free radicals and subsequently decrease cell damage.

How to Store:

  • IMG_4480Whole pumpkins can be stored between 30-90 days in a cool, dry, dark place. They are best stored on a piece of cardboard because the cardboard will absorb moisture and prevent rotting. Do not place the pumpkin on a cement floor or rug since both tend to hold moisture.
  • Canned pumpkin can be stored with other canned goods for about 2 years.  Once the can has been opened the pumpkin should be consumed in about three days.

How to Use:

  • In pies or breads
  • In soup as the main ingredient or as a thickener
  • Added to hummus
  • Added to plain plant-based yogurt in a 2 parts yogurt to 1 part pumpkin puree ratio.  Add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
  • Add pumpkin puree to you favorite pancake recipe
  • Make one of these great recipes for Pumpkin Pie Parfait with Cashew Vanilla Cream or Pumpkin Muffins both of which contain no refined sugar, gluten or oil.

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