There’s a crisp chill in the air and ghoulish décor everywhere you turn. It’s almost time for Halloween! It’s fun, but it’s also typically a time for overindulgence. Don’t believe me? Ask your friends how many pieces of candy they swiped from their kids’ loot bags. Then, double that number to get a true estimation. Those candy bags are dangerous to have around. But with all of the sinful indulgence comes a fun tradition that can actually have a positive impact on your health and waistline. I’m talking about carving those Jack-O-Lanterns!
Sure, you may burn some calories cutting those spooky faces, but that’s not the meat of the matter. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find an often overlooked source of nutritional goodness. Pumpkin is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it’s a great source of vitamins E, B1, B6 and folate. It’s also a good source of dietary fiber, which means it’ll keep you feeling full.
As you can imagine, with such a healthy serving of nutrition, there have been a few clinical studies done on this food. A 2012 Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases study suggests that eating foods rich in beta-carotene, such as pumpkin, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths among men. Another 2012 study, this one published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, found that pumpkin seed oil may help reduce high blood pressure and help protect from cardiovascular damage.
Of course, when you think of pumpkin and food together, you probably think of pumpkin pie. Well, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that pie isn’t the healthiest way to eat your Halloween pumpkins.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy this seasonal squash:
- Pumpkin salad. That’s right. You can grill cubes of pumpkin and toss it in with your salad. It’s surprisingly yummy and adds a fall-like vibe to an otherwise summery dish.
- Gourd soup. Pumpkin soup is one of my favorite fall treats, and you can enjoy it so many different ways. Add pureed pumpkin to a tortilla soup with tomatoes, cilantro and other spices or just add it to your favorite vegetable soup recipe. I think you’ll find it’s rather delicious.
- Stir-fried squash. Say what? Actually, stir fried squash is a traditional Thai dish. It’s very simple and awfully good. There are many variations, but my go-to recipe involves a little fish sauce, garlic, peppercorns, and just a sprinkle of sugar.
- Roasted pepitas. As soon as we’re done scooping out those pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas), I rinse them off, place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and toast for about 25 minutes at a temperature of 325 degrees. When they’re done, they go into an airtight container and I either eat them as a midday snack or pop a handful into my pumpkin salad. Yum!