“It’s the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown” time again! In addition to being carved for Halloween or arranged on front porches as an autumn harvest decoration, pumpkins are one of nature’s most nutritious and flavorful foods! “Don’t let your friends make you think you are basic with grabbing pumpkin recipes this fall,” says Jackie Elnahar, RD, Esq., head of Teladoc Health Dietitian Services. “Pumpkin has a high antioxidant count with beta carotene and lutein.”
One cup of cooked pumpkin pulp (no added salt or fat) has:
- 49 calories
- Less than 1 gram of fat
- 0 cholesterol
- 2 milligrams sodium
- 12 grams carbohydrate
- 3 grams dietary fiber
- 2 grams sugar
- 2 grams protein
It’s also a great source of the micronutrients beta carotene, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K.1 And don’t toss the seeds either. Just roast and eat them like peanuts or sunflower seeds (Fun tip: You can eat the shell too). Or you can buy shelled seeds, called pepitas, in many grocery stores.
While cooking your own pumpkin is pretty easy (just scoop out the meat, separate it from the seeds, cut into pieces, and boil it in unsalted water until soft), you can avoid the mess by using canned pumpkin (it’s usually in the canned fruits aisle; but don’t confuse it with canned pumpkin pie filling, which is parked in the baking aisle).
5 fun things to do with pumpkin
Pumpkin is extremely versatile; you can replace some of the fat and sweetener in your favorite baked goods with pureed or canned pumpkin. “It is also an excellent source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats in vegetable burgers,” Jackie adds. And did you know that pumpkin works wonders for skin too? Slather it on your face, and your skin will glow!
Here are five not-so-common ways to use pumpkin and pumpkin seeds:
- Facials and masks. Pumpkin pulp contains enzymes that smooth, soothe, and soften skin. Some commercial pumpkin masks can cost up to $100 or more, but you can find inexpensive DIY mask recipes online for a variety of skin types. Remember to use fresh or canned plain pumpkin (again, not pumpkin pie filling). Save a trip to the day spa with this DIY facial that’s good for any skin type:2
- Start with a freshly cleansed face.
- Remove dead skin by soaking a cotton ball in whole milk and applying it to your face. When it’s dry, rinse your face with warm water.
- Exfoliate with a mixture of 1 teaspoon pumpkin, ½ teaspoon brown or white sugar, ½ teaspoon lemon juice, and a few drops of honey. Gently scrub your face with the mixture and rinse in warm water. (Note: If you’re currently experiencing breakouts, be extra gentle so that you don’t aggravate your skin.)
- Apply an enzyme peel made of 1 tablespoon pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of plain Greek yogurt, and ½ teaspoon warmed honey. Wait 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
- Finish with your favorite moisturizer.
- Take a shot at homemade frozen yogurt with this super quick, easy, healthy, and tasty recipe for Pumpkin Spice FroYo:3
- In a food processor, add 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), 1 medium-ripe avocado, 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Blend until smooth.
- Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container. Freeze until hard enough to scoop with an ice-cream scoop.
- Replace store-bought nutrition bars with homemade spiced pumpkin seed cranberry snack bars.4
- Make GORP with pumpkin seeds. GORP, the mother of trail mix, is the acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts.” Try this twist on GORP by replacing the peanuts with roasted pumpkin seeds. Here’s how to roast fresh pumpkin seeds:5
- Preheat the oven to 300° F.
- Scrape the seeds out of a fresh pumpkin; separate them from the stringy pulp; place them in a colander and run cold water over them; shake off excess water (but do not blot the seeds dry).
- Dry the seeds by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet oiled with olive oil; roast for 30 minutes.
- Toss the seeds lightly with olive oil, sea salt, and any combination of seasonings that you like—cinnamon and sugar; chili powder, ground cumin, and a bit of brown sugar; cayenne; garam masala; smoked paprika; or drizzle them with honey.
- Spread the seeds on the baking sheet again; bake another 20 minutes or until crispy and golden.
- Store the cooled seeds in an airtight container in a dark, dry place to help reduce the chance of the oils in and on them from becoming rancid.
- Add a handful of pepitas to your smoothie to punch up the protein and fiber content.
Teladoc hopes you enjoy the season of the pumpkin. And if the weather change puts you under the weather, our board-certified doctors can help diagnose and recommend treatments for non-emergency conditions such as flu, dry skin, upper respiratory infections, and much more. Just use the app to request an appointment 24/7, anywhere you are.
Have a ghoulishly good holiday!
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