Nutrition for Athletes: There’s More to Pumpkin Beyond Pie

Pumpkins can be utilized for far more great foods than just making pie.

Pumpkins can be utilized for far more great foods than just making pie.

For your good health

Although closely associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving, this fruit is very versatile and can be enjoyed in many ways beyond traditional pumpkin pie. It can be used in salads, soups, sauces, breads, cookies, and made into preserves. The seeds can be roasted, salted or eaten raw for snacks and sprinkled on just about anything.

The pumpkin is indigenous to North America and is technically a fruit with seeds and comes from a flower. It seems like a vegetable, but the family Cucurbitaceae, and the genus Cucurbita includes gourds, squash and pumpkins.

Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene, one of the most abundant plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. Research indicates a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and offer protection against heart disease and some degenerative aspects of aging.

When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, choose what’s called a “pie pumpkin” or “sweet pumpkin”; these varieties are smaller than their jack-o’-lantern counterparts, and their flesh is sweeter and less watery. If the smaller pumpkins aren’t available, you can substitute the larger ones with fairly good results.

Buy pumpkins with at least a 1 – 2-inch stem, which will prevent the pumpkin from rapidly decaying. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots, and choose ones that are firm to the touch and feel heavy for their size. You may store pumpkins in a cool, dark place up to two months.

Instead of pumpkin pie, try the following recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt. Canned or fresh pumpkin purée for this recipe both work well. To make fresh pumpkin purée, use 1 lb of raw untrimmed pumpkin for each cup of canned purée pumpkin.

If pumpkin pie is still on the menu, reduce its calorie content by using an egg substitute and evaporated milk for the filling or simply choose a smaller slice.

RECIPE: PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE YOGURT

This recipe is a healthful way to enjoy dark chocolate because it isn’t made with excessive amounts of sugar and other ingredients that often diminish the health benefits of high-quality dark chocolate.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
2 cups nonfat Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (canned is perfect)
4 T. dark honey
2 to 3 pinches ground cinnamon
2 pinches ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
One 4-oz cacao dark chocolate bar that contains high percentage of cacao solids, grated

Directions:
1. Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate.
2. Portion the mixture into individual serving dishes. Divide the chocolate evenly between the servings and stir to incorporate.

Nutrient Analysis Per Serving:
Calories: 278; Protein: 13 g; Carbohydrate: 38 g; Fiber: 3 g; Total fat: 12 g; Sat fat 6 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 45 mg

– Kristen Price, RD, Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic

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