Hard to believe summer officially ended and as if overnight, we’ve rolled into pumpkin season. I revisited ABC10 last week as their TV health expert and was excited to feature some healthy ways to eat America’s beloved fall vegetable. Pumpkins are packed with anti-aging nutrition and are a versatile veggie — you can cook it, soup it, bake it, sweeten it, or just eat their seeds! Pumpkin for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Yes, yes, and yes! Click HERE to link to the video.
On the menu:
- BREAKFAST: Pumpkin Nut Belgian Waffles — Chopped walnuts add a healthy dose of heart healthy omega-3’s to these light whole grain waffles. Topped with my favorite naturally sweet Spiced Apple Topping. (This antioxidant-rich topping is delicious over yogurt and muesli, pumpkin pancakes, and ice cream too!)
- BREAKFAST, SNACK OR DESSERT: Super Moist Pumpkin Bars with Greek Cream Cheese Pineapple Frosting — These bars are delicious and healthy any time!
- ENTREE: Pumpkin Marinara over Green Lentil Pasta — Super easy to make and super rich in skin-loving ingredients: pumpkin and tomato purée!
- SOUP: Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Soup in Pumpkin Tureen — Pumpkins + apples make the perfect pair.
- BEVERAGE: Pineapple Pumpkin Smoothie — This creamy smoothie (frozen pineapple, bananas, pumpkin, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt) makes a great way to start the day, pick you up in the afternoon, or reenergize you after a workout. Freeze it for a fresh fruit frozen dessert! 😀
- DESSERT: Pumpkin Bark — Handmade extreme dark chocolate with roasted pumpkin seeds and almonds.
‘Tis the season for pumpkin! Here are the nutrition bullet points that make them well worth eating:
- Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene (an important antioxidant).
- Beta-carotene (a bright orange plant pigment) is converted to vitamin A in your body.
Vitamin A is for Anti-Aging
Foods rich in beta-carotene:
- May reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
- Offer protection against heart disease and some degenerative aspects of aging, including cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Keep your skin soft and smooth. Vitamin A rebuilds body tissues and helps control the production of sebum (oil) that lubricates your skin. If you’re deficient in this vitamin, you’ll end up with dry, scaly skin.
- Destroy free radicals, that is, the by-products of oxidation from normal metabolic processing. These little scavengers cause cellular damage and are responsible for aging skin.
- Attack the free radicals that break down your skin’s elastin and collagen – the vital components of youthful, firm and resilient skin.
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are a good souce of fiber and healthy fats and an excellent source of iron — especially for vegans. A handful of pepitas (about 85 little seeds) contain about 1 mg. of iron. That’s about 4% of the recommended amount of iron you need each day.
Iron is essential due to its oxygen-carrying capacity. An iron deficiency can impair muscle function, normal function of the nervous and immune systems, and can limit your work capacity during exercise.
Fit Tip: Roast and season pumpkin seeds and kernels for a bone-building high-fiber snack. To spice them up, sprinkle them with garlic powder, cayenne and smoked paprika. Also, try some Super Moist Pumpkin Bars for a boost of vitamin A!
Pumpkins are the eternal symbol of fall and a healthy food, but they’re often transformed into not-so-healthy desserts. New York magazine declared Pumpkin is the New Bacon in their headline several years ago. Aargh! That’s because the minimal amount of pumpkin used (if any) in some of these processed products is usually wrapped in layers of saturated fat (butter), refined carbs (white flour) and sugar.
However, after much ‘tinkering’ in my kitchen, you can enjoy this nutritional all-star. These pumpkin treats are not only quick and easy to make, they’re extremely moist and light in texture (yes, despite being ‘whole grain’). I’ve skimped on the fat and sugar, but not the flavor. Best of all, my cardiac patients and family gave them a huge thumbs up! 🙂
- 2 cups (217 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Vietnamese cinnamon)
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 2 large eggs (omega-3 fortified)
- 1 1/3 cups (176 grams) light brown sugar
- 2 cups (488 grams) pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
- 1/2 cup (113.5 grams) nonfat milk
- 1/4 cup (56 grams) Earth Balance® (Original) natural buttery spread, melted
- 1/4 cup (63.8 grams) unsweetened applesauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla bean extract)
- Date sugar (optional)
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