This is the time of year the leaves start to change, the sweaters and jeans come out of the closet and the smell of pumpkin spice fills the air.
While some of us may agree that pumpkin spice toothpaste is going a bit too far, there are healthy ways to realize the health benefits of pumpkin while fresh pumpkins are readily available.
“It is the time of year that we find comfort in the smell of pumpkin spice,” said Rebecca Jilek, MPH, RD, LD, CDE, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. She adds, “It brings you a warm, cozy feeling that we look for as the temperature starts to drop, but you want to make sure you are realizing the health benefits of pumpkin.”
Finding fresh pumpkin in products this time of year may be a little harder than you think, but by finding that ingredient on the label or adding fresh pumpkin to recipes (see Turkey Pumpkin Chili recipe below) can add a number of health benefits, including:
- Fiber: helps you feel full, maintain a good cholesterol level, improves cardiovascular health, and aides in digestion.
- Beta Carotene: good for your skin and converts to Vitamin A in your body which is important for good for eye health.
- Vitamin C: good for your immune system which a strong immune system will help you fight colds this season.
- Antioxidants: assist in fighting age related disease and some cancers.
There are some do’s and don’ts to realizing the health benefits of pumpkin and to guide you through the pumpkin craze:
DO – Look for pumpkin on the ingredients label. The higher on the label, the more of it is in the item.
DON’T – Be fooled by pumpkin spice items, they could have no pumpkin and added fat and sugar.
DO – Eat everything in moderation. Pumpkin is still a starchy carbohydrate, a cup can give you 12 grams of carbohydrates.
In the fall, when pumpkins are fresh, you can easily puree and freeze them so you can reap the health benefits year round.
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
Nutrition Information: Serves 4
Protein 20 g
Carbohydrates 20 g
Total fat 3.5 g
Cholesterol 66 mg
Sodium 321 mg
Sugars 2 g
Fiber 2 g
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 Clove of Garlic, Minced
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1 lb. Ground Turkey
½ Cup Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Can (14.5 oz) Diced Tomatoes
½ Cup Yellow Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
1 ½ tbsp. Chili Powder
½ tsp. Ground Black Pepper
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and garlic until tender.
- Stir in the turkey and cook until evenly browned.
- Pour meat mixture into the slow cooker and mix in tomatoes and pumpkin.
- Season with chili powder, pepper, and salt.
- Cover and set on low, and cook for 4 to 5 hours.
For more healthy recipes, including St. Elizabeth’s Autumn Beef, Bean and Pumpkin Chili, click here.