Pumpkin is a nutrition gold mine! A member of the Cucurbita family, which includes squash and cucumbers, pumpkin gets its name from the Greek word “pepon,” meaning large melon. Nutritionally speaking, this bright orange vegetable is a virtually fat-free super food. The deep orange color is a giveaway that pumpkin is rich in the disease-fighting antioxidants called carotenoids (especially the alpha and beta-carotenoids). The carotenoid family of antioxidants is highly effective in mopping up damaging molecules called free radicals, which harm healthy cells and can lead to disease and premature aging. Including a wide array of antioxidant foods in your diet is the best lifestyle strategy for fighting off harmful free radical molecules. Pumpkin also contains a nice amount of two other antioxidants—Vitamin C and Vitamin E—along with a huge cache of minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium, plus a healthy dose of dietary fiber.
If carving, seeding and cooking the pumpkin is not your thing, canned pumpkin (without any additives) is just as nutritious and makes it easy to get this orange wonder food into your diet. one cup of canned pumpkin contains 7 grams of dietary fiber (28% of your daily needs), 763% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 17% of your daily requirement for vitamin C, 19% of your daily needs for iron and 6% of your bone-building calcium needs. And all this for a mere 83 calories—and practically zero fat, zero cholesterol and zero sodium! It just doesn’t get better than this, nutritionally speaking.
Pumpkin puree is incredibly versatile in cooking, and can be used to add extra nutrition and fiber to many dishes—from casseroles and pasta sauces to soups, pancake batter, baked goods and even smoothies. For a sweet and seasonal calcium-rich afternoon treat, try mixing 0 percent fat-free Greek yogurt with a quarter cup pumpkin puree, add a dash of pumpkin pie spice, your sweetener of choice, and top with fat-free whipped topping and crush walnuts. Yum! Another of my favorite simple ways to get a quick, healthy and delectable dose of pumpkin into my day is to give the traditional pumpkin pie a healthy makeover. Try this delicious and nutritious pumpkin pie recipe this holiday season and your heart and waistline will be grateful.
Dr. Janet’s Light Pumpkin Pie Recipe
This fall, lighten up your holiday cooking with a new, lighter pumpkin pie. This recipe uses fat-free milk, egg whites and a little less sugar to allow the classic pumpkin pie spices—cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice—to shine a little brighter. A graham cracker pie crust and a fat-free whipped topping cut down on the calories of this popular holiday fare.
9-inch ready-made graham cracker pie crust (trans-fat free)
1 can (15 oz.) of pumpkin puree
3/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk
3 egg whites or 1/3 cup egg substitute
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place all of the filling ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into pie shell and bake 50 minutes (middle rack) or until pie is just set.
Set on a wire rack and allow pie to cool completely before serving.
Top with fat-free whipped topping.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 260 calories, 8g fat (1.5 g. saturated fat) 44g carbohydrates, 5g protein, 3g fiber, cholesterol 0 mg, sugars 34g and 230 mg sodium.
Note: make your own graham cracker crust and bring the calories down to 200!
Graham cracker crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend graham cracker crumbs, sugar and oil and mix well. Pat into 9-in pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow shell to cool before filling.