Health and nutritional benefits of pumpkins
Fall is a great season to enjoy the colors of the trees and the peak colors of fall vegetables. Rich orange, yellow, red and dark green vegetables, each with its own great flavor and color.
For example, vegetables, like pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes are packed with important antioxidants and carotenoids.
Carotenoids are natural plant compounds that give orange coloring to pumpkins and carrots and deep red tomatoes. Carotenoids are thought to help reduce the incidence of cataracts, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants
Pumpkins are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which performs many important functions as the body converts it to vitamin A. It helps protect against disease, helps maintain the integrity of the skin and mucus membranes, and helps slow signs of aging such as wrinkles. Pumpkin also contains zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps the eye filter damaging ultraviolet rays and protects against age-related macular degeneration.
These nutrients not only help us see, especially at night, but they also protect the body against some types of cancer and strengthen our immune system. Healthy vision, bones and skin can be aided with at least one serving a day of a deep orange or dark green (carotenoid-rich) fruit or vegetable such as:
- Sweet potato
- Cooked greens
- Sweet peppers
- Turnip greens
- Winter squash varieties
Pumpkins and other winter squash can fill the nutrition gap when other vegetables are not in season. They store well and are easy and inexpensive to grow. Choose examples that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Avoid those with blemishes or soft spots on the skin. Store them in a cool, dark place for several months.
Substitute cooking oil with pumpkin puree
Pumpkin and similar squash varieties can be used to replace some or all the oil in recipes and provide a fine texture, tender product without the higher fat content. Pumpkin puree works as a substitute for much of the oil in muffins, quick loaves of bread, fruit cakes and in some cookie recipes.
Pumpkin works particularly well in recipes that have the typical pumpkin spices, like cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice. It also works very well in chocolate products and keeps the flavor consistent while adding a great texture and richness to the product.
Pumpkins are low in fat and have only 50 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber per cup. Pumpkin puree can be used to replace three-quarters of the oil in the recipe. Every half cup of oil you replace with a pumpkin saves you more than 920 calories. Add the puree when you add the other moist ingredients.
The products do bake faster when using pumpkin instead of oil, so check sooner for doneness. The product will be denser and moister when cooked with pumpkin instead of oil.