Prevent macular degeneration
Boost immune system
Prevent heart disease and cancer
Good for the eyes ~ and much more
It's not just due to its size that this super vegetable is called the king of squash.
A half cup of canned, has more than 16 milligrams of betacarotene, 160 to 260 percent of the daily amount recommended by experts.
It's also a source of lesser-known carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Carotenoids, which create the orange color, help protect the body by neutralizing harmful oxygen molecules known as free radicals.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are very potent free radical scavengers.
A diet high in antioxidants can help prevent many of the diseases associated with aging, including heart disease and cancer.
Lutein and zeaxanthin aren’t found only in pumpkin, they're also found in the lenses of the eyes.
Studies suggest that eating foods high in these compounds may help block the formation of cataracts.
In one study, scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston compared the diets of elderly people who had advanced macular degeneration, a condition that leads to blurred vision, to the diets of those without the disease.
The researchers found that those who ate the most carotenoid-rich foods had a 43 percent lower risk of getting this condition than folks who ate the least.
Among people who already had macular degeneration, those who got the most carotenoids in their diets were less likely to develop a more serious form of the disease.
The beta-carotene in this super vegetable helps protect the plant itself from diseases, from getting too much sunlight and from other naturally occurring stresses.
There’s strong evidence that beta-carotene can help protect people from a variety of conditions as well.
Research has shown, for example, that getting more beta—carotene in the diet can help protect against a variety of cancers, including cancers of the stomach, esophagus, lungs and colon.
This protective effect is enhanced by phenolic acids, which are chemicals in this super vegetable that bind to potentai carcinogens and help prevent them from being absorbed.
The beta—carotene in pumpkin may play a role in preventing heart disease as well.
Some research suggests that people with diets high in fruits and vegetables that contain beta-carotene have a lower risk of heart disease than those whose diets supplied less.
In the Kitchen
Because of their size and perfect carvability, these super vegetables have been destined to spend lives on front porches rather than on dinner plates.
But, despite their ornamental nature, they're still a root vegetable squash, which means that they can be eaten whole, mashed, or cut into chunks for a hearty stew.
• To bake, cut it in half (or, if it’s large, into quarters), scoop out the seeds, and place the pieces, cut side down, in a baking pan.
Add a little water to prevent scorching and bake at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.
To speed cooking time, it can be cut into smaller pieces and either baked in the oven, steamed or microwaved.
When using for a pie, soup, or stew, you have to remove the skin.
The easiest way to do this is to prepare it for baking, then bake in a 350F oven until the flesh is slightly soft.
When it's cool enough to handle, scoop or cut out the flesh.
Discard the skin and proceed with the recipe.
The Whole Picture
In addition to its rich stores of beta—carotene and other phytonutrients, this beta-caroten king contains generous amounts of fiber.
For example, while 1 cup of corn-flakes contains 1 gram of fiber, a half-cup of canned pumpkin contains more than 3 grams, 6 percent of the Daily Value.
Iron is another mainstay.
Just a half-cup, provides almost 2 milligrams of iron, about 20 percent of the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for men and 1.3 percent of the RDA for women.
This is particularly important for women, who need to replenish their iron regularly due to menstruation.
Even richer in iron than the flesh are the seeds.
One ounce, which consists of about 140 seeds, a huge handful, contains about 4 milligrams of iron, about 40 percent of the RDA for men and 27 percent of the RDA for women.
What’s more, that ounce of seeds has as much protein, 9 grams, as an ounce of meat.
Of course, you don’t want to eat too many pumpkin seeds, since about: 73 percent of the calories (there are 148 calories in an ounce of seeds) come from fat.
But when you have a taste for a crunchy, highly nutritious snack, these super seeds, in moderation, are a good choice.
Gettinq the Most
Consider it canned.
There’s something about preparing a huge orb that daunts even dedicated cooks and prevents them from utilizing its healing powers.
An easy and convenient alternative is to buy the canned version.
Nutritionally, it’s almost equal to fresh.
Buy it tender.
When you have a taste for fresh pumpkin, be sure to shop for milder varieties, like the mini-sized "Jack-Be-Littles".
While large ones are great for carving, they also tend to be tough and stringy, and most people don’t enjoy them as much.
Temper the taste.
This super vegetable is among the stronger-flavored squashes, and even people who like the taste can be overwhelmed by its potent presence.
To get the most into your diet, you may want to mellow the taste.
One way to do this is to add about a tablespoon of orange juice or any other citrus juice during cooking.
Love your leftovers.
There’s no reason to force yourself to eat the entire thing at one sitting, as though you could!
Properly frozen, it retains virtually all its goodness and nutrition.
And if you're wondering how to include pumpkin with your next dinner, we have two suggestions;
Spiked Pumpkin Soup
This silky, slightly sweet soup is a fitting starter for various holiday entrées, including roast turkey, ham, or pork tenderloin.
Bourbon enhances the natural sweetness.
Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1 c. soup, 1 Tbs. sour cream, and 1 tsp. parsley)
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. apple cider
1/3 c. bourbon
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 (29-oz.) can pumpkin
1 (14-oz.) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 c. 2% reduced-fat milk
1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
9 Tbs. reduced-fat sour cream
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Coat pan with cooking spray.
Add onion, ginger, cumin, and garlic cloves; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Stir in cider, bourbon, syrup, pumpkin, and broth; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
Place half of pumpkin mixture in a blender; process until smooth.
Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl.
Repeat process with remaining pumpkin mixture.
Return pureed mixture to pan.
Stir in milk, flour, salt, and pepper; cook until thoroughly heated (do not boil), stirring frequently.
Serve with sour cream.
Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Calories: 163 (19% from fat)
Fat: 3.4 g. (sat 1.8 g., mono-unsaturated, 0.3 g., poly-unsaturated 0.1 g.)
Protein: 5.1 g.
Carbohydrates: 24.9 g.
Fiber: 4.2 g.
Cholesterol: 12 mg.
Iron: 0.8 mg.
Sodium: 255 mg.
Calcium: 119 mg.
And, our second suggestion can be found here;
Bisque of Pumpkin
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