Fall is the season of pumpkin. We carve them for Halloween and roast their seeds, we drink it in our lattes and beer, and we eat pumpkin bread, pancakes and, of course, pumpkin pie. This year I started buying pumpkin to cut up and roast with the rest of my veggies (why did I never think to do this before??). I honestly don’t think I could ever get sick of pumpkin. It is what makes fall so special for me (in addition to the beautiful turning leaves, crisp fall air and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season). One of the hardest things for me while I lived in California was the absence of the fall season that is so incredibly beautiful in Virginia.
Lucky for me and all you pumpkin lovers out there, pumpkin is really good for you. Mind you, I am talking about real pumpkin, not the “pumpkin flavor” put in your latte at Starbucks (sorry folks). Here are a few fun health facts about my favorite orange squash:
- Pumpkins are high in vitamin A, which aids in vision, particularly in dim light. They are also rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which give them their orange color and the body converts into a form of vitamin A. So you get double vitamin A. Yay! Beta-carotene may also play a role in cancer prevention. Bottom line, eat your orange veggies!
- Pumpkins are high in fiber and low in calories, with one cup having three grams of fiber and only a whopping 49 calories. Fiber keeps you full for a longer period of time, so people consuming fiber-rich diets tend to eat less overall. Fiber is the reason why you can last longer before getting hungry again after eating an apple compared to drinking apple juice, as the skin of the apple is the source of all of its fiber. So, if weight is something you are working on, pumpkin is a good vegetable to add to your regular fall eating regimen.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in studies to reduce LDL (aka bad) cholesterol. They are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan (yes, the same tryptophan in turkey). This amino acid is important in the production of serotonin, which plays a major role in helping to boost your mood. No wonder I am always happy after Thanksgiving dinner… 😉
- Ever eat a banana after a tough workout? Potassium helps to restore the body’s balance of electrolytes and repair muscles. Pumpkins actually have more potassium than a banana, with a cup having 564 milligrams to a banana’s 422.
- Pumpkins are high in vitamin C, providing 11 milligrams for every 1 cup. This is about 20% of the recommended daily milligrams of vitamin C for women. As we enter the cold and flu season, keep this in mind in case you wake up with the sniffles.
I created the pumpkin granola recipe below by taking my favorite aspects of two other granola recipes I am lucky enough to have been given, one by my father and the other by a good friend. I will give them full credit for the recipes that inspired my hybrid. This is a simple recipe to make, contains common ingredients, and will only take about 30 minutes of your time. You can play with different nuts in the recipe to find what taste and consistency you prefer. It makes about 7-10 servings, depending on the amount of granola you like in your yogurt (I personally pile it on!). This version is not sugar free but certainly has far less sugar than the granolas you will see on supermarket shelves. You can always drop the dried fruit to make it sugar free, but I like the punch of flavor they add. I love to eat this with plain Greek yogurt, but play around and see what you like best.
Everyday Pumpkin Granola
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups nuts, chopped (my favorites are walnuts, pecans and cashews)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 6 tbsp coconut oil (I recommend an organic, non-hydrogenated version)
- ½ cup canned pumpkin
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup dried fruit (my favorite is dried cherries)
- 2 tbsp cacao nibs
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Combine the oats, nuts, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl.
- Melt the coconut oil and pumpkin in a pot on the stove. After the mixture is melted, remove it from heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir to combine and then add the oat/nut mixture, stirring until the contents are all evenly coated.
- Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet and spread flat
- Bake for 15 minutes and then gently stir with a spatula. Bake for about 10 more minutes or until golden brown.
- Let it cool completely on the pan before adding the dried fruit and cacao nibs. Store in a glass jar.
Peace, love and all things pumpkin,