Autumn is my favourite time of year. The weather is changing, the leaves are a brilliant golden-orangey-red, and the Farmers' Harvest Markets are in full swing.
The pumpkin often plays a central role at this time of year. It is used in pies, savory dishes, and even as the dinner table's centerpiece.
We always have a lot of fun going to the local pumpkin patch and picking out the perfect one. What's more, the pumpkin has numerous health benefits, making it a truly staple food this harvest season.
Post Workout Recovery
Ever heard of bananas being good for muscle cramps and important for post workout recovery? It turns out, a cup of mashed pumpkin contains more potassium (564 mg) than a banana (422 mg) keeping your electrolytes balanced and your muscles working their best.
Pumpkins are high in both vitamin A and zinc. Both of these phytonutrients keep your eyesight sharp, improving vision and may be implicated in preventing both macular degeneration and cataracts.
Weight Loss and Blood Sugar Balancing
Pumpkins are a great source of fibre and support balanced sugar levels in the bloodstream. The fibre in pumpkin makes you feel fuller for longer, helping you safely lose weight. Zinc is involved in proper insulin activity and can help prevent insulin resistance.
Again, it's the zinc in pumpkin seeds that supports a healthy immune system. Pumpkin seeds also contain copper, which works in concert with zinc. Someone needing to take more therapeutic amounts of zinc should be aware to keep copper levels healthy as well, since taking too much zinc can create a copper deficiency. Isn't it interesting how nature provides this built-in balance in the pumpkin seed?!
Protein and Healthy Oils
Pumpkin seeds contain protein: almost 10 grams per 1/4 cup, and healthy omega 6 oils that help reduce inflammation in the body. They are a great ingredient to add to your morning smoothie or granola.
And to add to these health benefits, carving a pumpkin can provide a creative outlet, reduce anxiety and improve quality of life.
Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup
This was inspired by one of my favourite cookbooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. My patients love this book because it offers easy anti-inflammatory recipes for meals that are packed with phytonutrients.
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cups fresh roasted pumpkin *
2 cups vegetable stock
One 15-ounce can coconut milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chili powder, more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sea salt
Garnish: your choice of fresh parsley, rosemary, cilantro, dried (unsweetened) coconut, roasted pumpkin seeds
* Roasting Pumpkin: Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Scoop out seeds and pulp from pumpkin and save the seeds for roasting later. Cut the pumpkin into squares, approximately 1 inch thick and remove the outer skin layer. Rub pumpkin pieces with olive or coconut oil and place on roasting sheet in oven for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the pumpkin.
Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until fragrant.
Carefully add the pumpkin, vegetable stock, coconut milk, honey, chili powder and sea salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the soup has thickened slightly and the pumpkin is soft.
Puree soup in a blender (in batches if necessary) and return to the pot. Simmer for another minute or two.
Sprinkle with garnish, and enjoy!