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Health benefits of pumpkin

Pumpkin: This superfood squash is good for more than just jack-o’-lanterns, lattes and Thanksgiving pies. Pumpkin has numerous health benefits, earning this squash its superfood title.

“Pumpkin is a great food,” says Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont. “So many people just gut their pumpkins, carve their lantern and throw out the good stuff.”

Don’t miss pumpkin’s health benefits. Pumpkin is...

  • High in fiber, which helps you feel full and promotes digestive health.
  • Rich in vitamin A, which is key for healthy vision, proper cell growth and a strong immune system.
  • Low in calories. One cup of cubed pumpkin is just 30 calories and one cup of pumpkin puree (not to be confused with pumpkin pie mix) contains only 80 calories.

Pumpkin seeds also have health benefits:

  • They contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce sleep-promoting serotonin.
  • They’re rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, which help protect against cancer, fight inflammation and improve skin appearance.

The healthiest way to eat pumpkin

Teems cautions that while pumpkin is indeed a superfood, the most popular ways to consume it aren’t so healthy.

“People get in trouble when they go for the pumpkin pies, cakes, muffins, breads, etc.,” she explains. “As a dietitian, I’d recommend opting for roasted pumpkin, adding pumpkin puree to a smoothie or hummus, or a nice pumpkin soup to better glean the health benefits of pumpkin.”

Ready to enjoy pumpkin’s many nutritional benefits? Try this creamy, comforting and nutritious pumpkin soup recipe. 

Pumpkin, leek and white bean soup with gruyere toast

Nancy Waldeck, a chef at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, created this creamy, delicious pumpkin soup, perfect for chilly fall and winter days.

When cooking the soup, she recommends using dried herbs instead of fresh.

“Fresh herbs tend to lose their taste after about 30 minutes of cooking,” says Waldeck. “Dried herbs hold up better for long-cooking recipes. Garnish soups and stews with fresh herbs right before serving.”

 Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans*, drained and rinsed well with cold water
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 cans solid pack pumpkin
  • ½ cup of skim milk or to taste
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Step one

Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Over medium heat, sauté the leeks and chopped onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute.

Step two

Add the chicken stock, beans, tarragon, thyme and chili flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Step three

Add the pumpkin and cook until warm, about five minutes. With a stick mixer or in a blender, process until creamy. Then add milk, salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve topped with gruyere toasts.

*Kitchen smidgen: Cannellini beans are a mild-flavored Italian bean from Tuscany. Similar to a kidney bean, they are widely available in both canned and dried forms. Great white northern beans or navy beans can be used as a substitute.

Gruyere toasts

Ingredients:

  • ½ baguette, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup shredded gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the toasts on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with gruyere. Return to the oven until the cheese melts.

For additional healthy recipe ideas, visit Living Better’s recipe index

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