That’s right, pumpkin. It’s not just a Halloween symbol or the star ingredient of your Thanksgiving pie. In fact, this magical gourd is any health nut’s dream. This often-underappreciated veggie is exceptionally low in calories and loaded with potassium, beta-carotene, and Vitamin A. Studies show that pumpkin prevents cancer and heart disease and protects eye health—which means your diet deserves a little more pumpkin.
Here are our five favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin and rack up the health benefits:
- Roast whole pumpkins and use it in a variety of vegetable dishes. The roasted flesh makes a perfect base for a creamy, low-fat fall-infused soup.
- If you’re looking for a sweeter way to relish your freshly roasted pumpkins, you can blend the pumpkin flesh and add it in your smoothies. Another option is to puree the flesh with apple juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then boil the mixture to make fresh homemade pumpkin butter.
- One of our favorite tricks for using canned pumpkin is to buy a box of cake mix, and instead of adding any milk or eggs, simply add one whole can of pureed pumpkin, stir with the mix, and bake! Not only is this a breezy way to make a sweet treat on the fly, but you also save good deal of calories and saturated fat by using pumpkin. Try it with a chocolate cake mix—the result is somewhere between a muffin and a cupcake. In a word, it’s heavenly.
- Pumpkin pie may be more popular this time of year, but cheesecake made with a cup or two of canned pumpkin is the perfect combination of creamy, sweet and savory. Bake it all in a crust made of crushed ginger snaps and you’ll never want to eat your cheesecake any other way.
- Perhaps best known for their role in prostate health, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses. Just scoop them out of the pumpkin, wash them thoroughly, season with sea salt, and bake in the oven at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes. These toasted seeds make a healthy snack for only 187 calories per a one-quarter cup serving.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin?