Nutritional benefits of pumpkins

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -If you're a traditional Thanksgiving diner, you can expect to see at least one pumpkin dish on your holiday table - but then you forget about it for the rest of the year. Bet you didn't know, though, that pushing aside the pumpkins can mean you're missing out on a wide range of health benefits!

After the fall pumpkins are carved, these flavorful fruits seem to disappear from our tables and Shively Lampson with Pure Foods in Lake Charles says so do many unexpected nutritional benefits.  "There's so many things you can do with pumpkins and they're so nutritious," says Lampson, "they're high in antioxidants, which helps fight the free radicals and they're also high in minerals, magnesium, iron and zinc - zinc helps support bone density."

Those little pumpkin seeds also pack a big healthy punch.  "An ounce of pumpkin seeds is equal to seven grams of protein," says Lampson.

When you're in the kitchen, Lampson says it's the perfect time to unleash your creative juices with pumpkin recipes. While the traditional pumpkin pies are an easy go-to, she says desserts like a roasted pumpkin filled with applesauce can be a great heart-healthy addition to any meal.  "Scoop out the seeds and you leave the pumpkin meat inside and then you put your applesauce in there and then you bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes," says Lampson.

Another popular pumpkin treat is a gluten-free scone with maple butter drizzled on top. Yum!  Lampson says a warm pumpkin soup on a cold day will definitely put you in the holiday mood.  "I choose to put it in the pumpkin shell and we'll put the croutons on top."

If refrigerated, Lampson says the pumpkin will stay fresh for three months - time well past the holiday season to enjoy all of its flavor and health benefits.  "Whatever it takes for you to eat pumpkin, please do," says Lampson.

If not refrigerated, pumpkins still have a pretty good lifespan - one month of carving up whatever you dish you can imagine.

Here's a couple of healthy pumpkin recipes from Shively Lampson:

Pumpkin Soup

1 small pumpkin
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out any strings and seeds.  With a sturdy knife, cut away the hard peel.  Coarsely chop the flesh; you should have about 8 cups if you would like to serve the pumpkin in the shell.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until it begins to turn golden.  Add the stock, chopped pumpkin and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender.  Discard the bay leaf.

In small batches, puree the soup in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender.  Return the puree to the pan and stir in the milk, orange zest, orange and lemon juices, nutmeg and ginger.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour in pumpkin shell.

Roasted Baby Pumpkins

6 baby pumpkins
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut off and reserve the tops of each pumpkin by cutting around the stems in a circle.  Scoop out the seeds with a small spoon and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkins on a greased baking sheet and fill with applesauce.  Place the tops back on and roast them for 45 minutes.

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