The Power of Pumpkin

IN NUTRITION


Make your Thanksgiving a smorgasbord with plenty of pumpkin for a healthy dose of nutrients.

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Although you may associate the orange pumpkin with pies and pumpkin-spice lattes, this orange squash has a place in savory dishes as well.

The distinctive orange color of pumpkins is caused by beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in the body. One cup of cooked, canned pumpkin provides more than 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for healthy vision and immune and reproductive systems. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs and kidneys function properly. Consuming foods high in beta-carotene may lower your risk of lung and prostate cancers.

Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium. In fact, a cup of boiled pumpkin packs a bigger punch of potassium than bananas (564 milligrams compared to 537 milligrams in a cup of banana). Consuming potassium lowers your blood pressure and your risk of stroke.

Don’t Forget the Seeds

Pumpkin flesh is delicious and healthy, but pumpkin seeds also have plenty of health benefits. One ounce of unshelled pumpkin seeds contains only 126 calories and offers 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.

One two-tablespoon serving of pumpkin seeds also contains 74 milligrams of magnesium, about a fourth of how much you need daily. The magnesium found in pumpkin seeds is good for your bone and heart health. Magnesium deficiency is linked to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

Pumpkin seeds are an easy-to-make snack — simply brush seeds with olive oil and garlic powder, then roast at 300 F until brown and toasted (about 45 minutes). Roasted pumpkin seeds can be used as salad toppings or as part of a homemade snack mix.

Pumpkin Pancakes

If you’re looking for a new way to incorporate pumpkin into your meal plan, try these easy, delicious pancakes. This is perfect for a family breakfast. You can also make a batch and then freeze the leftovers—pop them in the toaster for a homemade, quick breakfast on the go.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 3/4 cups low-fat milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a medium bowl, combine egg, canned pumpkin, milk and vegetable oil. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring until just moist (the batter may be lumpy).

Lightly coat a griddle or skillet with cooking spray, then heat to medium. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook one side until bubbles burst, then flip. Cook until golden brown. Makes 1 dozen pancakes.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 pancake
Calories: 127
Fat: 3g
Cholesterol 17mg
Sodium: 159mg
Carbohydrates: 21g
Protein: 4g

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