Pumpkins are much more than just Halloween decorations! Their bright orange inside is a dead giveaway that they’re loaded with important plant pigments known as carotenoids. One of these, beta-carotene, is an especially important antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals and so reduces the risk of cancer and other degenerative diseases.
Rich in vital vitamins and minerals, but low in calories. 200 grams (or about the amount you’d find in a bowl of pumpkin soup) provides just 50 calories and contains no saturated fats, nor cholesterol. However, it does contain plenty of fiber. That is why pumpkin is one of the foods nutritionists like me often recommend for losing weight and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
A natural source of vitamin A
Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, as you need it and in just the right amounts. Another powerful antioxidant, vitamin A is vital for protecting our immune system and maintaining healthy skin. But taking it in supplement form can sometimes be toxic.
Of all the vegetables in the cucurbitaceous family, including cucumbers, squash and melons, pumpkins contain the highest levels of vitamin A. Just 100 grams, the amount you might eat in a bowl of pumpkin soup, provides a whopping 246% of your daily requirement.
Vitamin A is also essential for proper vision and helps guard against macular degeneration. Pumpkin flesh is rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin too, which also protect eye health and offer additional protection against some cancers too.
Don’t throw the seeds!
Even their seeds are packed with nutritional value. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of vegetable protein and rich in minerals such as zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
You can roast your own seeds from a fresh pumpkin in a hot oven (190°C) for about 45 minutes. Just rinse and dry them, coat with a little olive oil and season with paprika or whatever spices you have on hand. Pop them in the oven on a cookie tray, lightly toast and eat whole as a delicious nutritious snack. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of the amino acid tryptophan, which guards against depression in the winter months ahead.
My favourite way to enjoy pumpkin is in soup. It’s so easy just to sauté with a few onions and spices, put it all in the food processor and turn into a wonderful velvety concoction the whole family loves. Here’s one of my favourite recipes from The Clever Kitchen. Why not give the raw version a try too!
The Clever Kitchen’s Spicy Pumpkin Soup
This rich, full-bodied pumpkin soup is inspired by traditional Thai flavours and infused with fall aromatics, rich in flavour and smooth in texture. For added heat, use an additional garlic clove and a dash of red pepper flake.
2 tsp Coconut Oil
1 diced Yellow Onion
3 minced Garlic Cloves
2 cups Pumpkin
2 cups Vegetable Stock
2 cups Coconut Milk
1 Bay Leaf
¼ tsp Thyme
2 tbsp Red Curry Paste
½ tsp Nutmeg
Pink Himalayan Salt & Pepper
4 tbsp chopped Coriander
4 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds
Combine Coconut Oil, garlic, onions and pumpkin together over a low simmer.
Add vegetable stock, coconut milk, bay leaf, thyme and curry. Cook for 10 – 15 min. Remove bay leaf and puree in blender/processor.
After pureeing, return to heat and add nutmeg, Pink Himalayan Salt, and pepper until well combined.
Top with Pumpkin Seeds and coriander
Combine Coconut Oil, coconut milk, garlic, onion, bay leaf and spices together in large bowl, allow to infuse overnight in refrigerator.
Remove bay leaf and combine pumpkin into chilled coconut milk and use an immersion blender or mixer to blend until creamy.
Gently fold in red curry paste until completely combined.
Top with coriander, Pumpkin Seeds and a dash of nutmeg.