February 28, 2012

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE: The Great Pumpkin

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Fall may be long gone, but the supply of healthy, harvested goods is still aplenty.  Apples are still being picked, big leafy greens are piling up, and butternut squash is being blended into soups, all to nourish our hard-working bodies.   One of my absolute favorite autumn crops is pumpkin.  Apart from their aesthetic qualities, pumpkins are packed with healthy nutrients.  Here is a quick nutritional run down of these colorful orbs:

1. Their orange glow indicates an overwhelming presence of carotenoids, the precursors for vitamin A (important for strong teeth, healthy hair, vision, and proper functioning of the immune and reproductive systems).

2. One cup of cooked pumpkin only has about 50 calories.  That’s less than a mini-sized chocolate bar.

3. Believe it or not, pumpkin is a good source of vitamin C, with one cup providing 19% of your daily needs.  It’s also a good source of vitamin E, riboflavin, and potassium.

4. Like all fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is low in sodium and fat.

5. Their seeds, called pepitas, are jam-packed with minerals and healthy fats.

Sadly, many pumpkin treats, like pumpkin bread and cookies, are tainted with ingredients like sugar, refined oils, and sodium that ultimately take away from the nutritional value and delicious flavor of natural pumpkin.  There are many ways to avoid the consumption of these ingredients and still get your daily fix!

Skip the baseball sized pumpkin “muffin” and have a bowl of warm oatmeal mixed with canned pumpkin, cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts.  Or, blend up some canned pumpkin, almond milk, greek yogurt, pumpkin pie spice, and ice cubes for a pumpkin-pie smoothie!  And there is always the option of making your own pumpkin puree for recipes—it’s as easy as making mashed potatoes.  Cut a medium sized sugar pumpkin in half and scoop out the insides.  Place the halves face down in a shallow baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 1.5 hours at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or until tender.  Once it cools, scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender.

Before you set all of your pumpkins aflame in preparation for flight over a bridge, take a look at that adorable vegetable and think again; it could be your next hearty, nourishing meal!

Carrie Carlton is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at ccarlton@cornellsun.com. The Missing Link: Food and Agriculture appears on Wednesdays.

Original Author: Carrie Carlton