These late fall days are brightened by pumpkin treats like lattes and pies. The naturally sweet gourd is hearty, too, making it versatile enough for savory dishes and desserts — and as nutritionist Libby Limon tells us, there are plenty of reasons to load up even after Halloween.
Lose weight: Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, with 3 grams per half cup. “Fiber makes you feel fuller for longer, helping control appetite, plus it helps bowel function and motility,” says the expert. As a prebiotic, pumpkin also contributes to a healthy microbiome, which means less bloating and gas.
Clearer skin: The orange color of pumpkins comes from lots of beta-carotene, which is good for your eyes — but its benefits don’t end there. “High levels of beta-carotene have also been found to help protect those with fair skin against sunburn. It is the precursor for vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin, especially healing in conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis and cold sores,” Limon adds. A diet rich in beta-carotenes has been shown to be protective against many cancers, especially lung cancer.
Better sleep: Pumpkin seeds are a great source of tryptophan, an amino acid that functions as the precursor to both serotonin and melatonin. “Serotonin is your ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter needed for good mood, and melatonin is your sleep hormone,” the nutritionist adds.
Recipe: Tempeh Curry with Cauliflower
By Wendy Bazilian, co-author of “Eat Clean, Stay Lean: 300 Real Foods and Recipes for Lifelong Health and Lasting Weight Loss”
•1 cup coconut milk
•1 can (15 ounces) unsweetened pumpkin puree
•2 cups vegetable broth
•1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
•2 tbsp curry powder
•1⁄2 cup chopped onion
•1 large russet (baking) potato, diced with skin on
•1⁄2 head cauliflower, broken into florets
•1 package (8 ounces) tempeh, cut into 1⁄2-inch squares
•2 cups green peas, thawed
•1 cup cooked rice
•fresh basil leaves
Combine the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, broth, ginger, curry powder and onion in a large slow cooker. Add the potato, cauliflower and tempeh, stirring to coat in the sauce. Cover and cook on low for seven hours. Fold in the peas and serve over rice. Garnish with basil leaves.
Makes 2 large servings
Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Recipe. Pumpkin Seed, Cherry and Pecan Granola Bars
Makes 10 bars
Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes + 30 minutes cooling time
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 1⁄3 cup pumpkin seeds
• 1⁄3 cup chopped pecans
• 1⁄4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1⁄2 cup dried cherries
• 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
• 3⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
• 1⁄3 cup honey
• 1⁄4 cup almond butter
• 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly coat an 8x8-inch (20x20cm) baking pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Place the oats, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and coconut on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 8 minutes, being careful not to let burn. Leave the oven on.
Mix the cherries, hemp seeds, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the toasted oats, nuts, and seeds to the bowl and mix together.
Combine the honey, almond butter, melted coconut oil, and vanilla in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to warm the mixture, then stir together well and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir all the ingredients – both dry and wet – together until uniformly coated.
Spread the mixture in the baking pan and press mixture firmly together from sides toward center, top toward bottom.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bars are lightly golden on top.
Cool completely in the pan, at least 30 minutes, then cut with a well-sharpened knife into 10 rectangular bars.
Recipe: Pumpkin Julius Smoothie
Prep Time: 3 minutes / Total Time: 3 minutes
Recipe reprinted with permission from The SuperFoodsRx Diet
• 3/4 cup low fat milk or unsweetened milk alternative
• 1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
• 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek-style yogurt
• 2 tbsp wheat germ or 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
• 1-1/2 tbsp honey
• 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
• 2 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust thickness with more or less ice cubes or water. Makes 1.5 cups.