Pumpkins have been lovingly adopted by many as the official mascot for the autumn season. Pumpkin Spice Lattes crop up by late-August. Throughout September and October, cafes and diners serve delicious pumpkin-flavored treats, and pumpkin decor can be seen everywhere from the local harvest festival to your dentist’s office. By mid-October, grocery stores seem to be overflowing with pumpkins in preparation for Jack-O-Lantern carving season. But before they became an iconic fall staple, they were valued for the essential nutrients that they provide.
Pumpkins, like many other squashes and vegetables, are a good source of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that passes through the body without being broken down. While fiber itself doesn’t provide us with any energy, it still provides important benefits like helping to manage blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, and improving bowel health. Finally, pumpkins are also free of fat and cholesterol, providing additional heart-healthy benefits. Pumpkins are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants, both key pieces to a strong immune system which is especially important as we head into colder weather.
Like other squashes, all parts of the pumpkin (leaves, vines, fruit, flowers, seeds, skin, and roots) are nutritious and safe to eat, opening the door to countless recipes. It can be baked, fried, pureed, added to soups and chilis, and even pickled. A tablespoon or so of pumpkin puree can be added to our Garlic Hummus recipe for a seasonal twist on this high-protein spread.
One of my favorite recipes is our Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies. These cookies are full of valuable nutrients like whole grains and fiber. They are extremely simple to make, and don’t require any special kitchen tools or appliances. As long as you have a bowl, some utensils, a baking sheet, and an oven, you can make these cookies! Younger kids can be easily included in making this recipe, especially with steps like mashing the banana and mixing the ingredients. As an added bonus, this recipe is vegan and gluten free, and can easily be made to accommodate nut allergies as well. These cookies are a great nutritious treat for any time of day and work well as a quick breakfast on busy mornings.
Want to watch the recipe video instead? Click HERE.
Author: Emily Menshew, Nutrition Education Associate