by guest blogger Peggy Kotsopoulos, registered holistic nutritionist, culinary consultant, and author of Kitchen Cures: Revolutionize Your Health with Foods that Heal
While pumpkin is the quintessential representation of fall, this orange gourd has many more uses (and benefits!) beyond the notorious jack-o’-lantern.
Health Perks of Pumpkin
Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress and has strong antiaging benefits. Its beta-carotene, along with the gourd’s high vitamin A, C, and K content, can enhance immune function.
Beyond the benefits of its micronutrients, pumpkin can support healthy weight management. It’s high in fiber and low in fat—helping to ward off winter weight gain. One cup of pumpkin contains only 80 calories!
Here are five new ways to use the surprisingly versatile pumpkin this season:
1. As a smoothie boost. Scoop some pumpkin into your favorite breakfast smoothie to pump up its nutrient content.
Pumpkin Spice Protein Smoothie
- 2 cups unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 scoop Vega One Vanilla Chai
- ½ cup ice
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well.
2. In a sweet treat. Because pumpkin is high in fiber and low in fat, it adds a healthy twist to decadent desserts.
Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut butter (make sure it’s heated to point of being liquid)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
3. In your lunch box. I love this salad because it contains cranberries, pumpkin, and pecans—my favorite fall foods!
Roasted Pumpkin Quinoa Salad
- 2 small pumpkins
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1½ cups fresh spinach, chopped
- ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 Tablesponns extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, then place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet greased with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Roast until soft (about 30 minutes).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked quinoa and add spinach. Remove from heat and cover, just until the spinach wilts, a minute or two.
- Add remaining ingredients to the skillet and stir to blend.
- Remove pumpkin from the oven. Scoop out part of the flesh from two of the halves. Chop then stir into the quinoa blend. Enjoy!
4. In your morning oats. There’s nothing like the combination of oatmeal and pumpkin to make me feel cozy. Forget your pumpkin-flavored latte, and use this breakfast instead to wake you up in the morning.
Pumpkin Pie Vegan Oatmeal
- 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
- 2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 Tablespoons almond milk
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Dash of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice
- Dried cranberries (optional)
- Chopped pecans (optional)
- Cook oatmeal your favorite way—on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- Instead of water, add almond milk.
- Cook until consistency is right then add in spices and pumpkin.
- Top with pecans and dried cranberries, if desired.
5. In your beauty routine. Revitalize your skin with this face mask. Both pumpkin and raw cane sugar contain alpha hydroxy acids—you’ll slough off dead skin cells and encourage the growth of new healthy cells for a fall glow! I also add pumpkin seed butter, which is high in fats, for moisture and zinc to combat acne.
Antiaging Pumpkin Face Mask
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 banana
- ¼ cup raw cane sugar
- 2 Tablespoon pumpkin seed butter
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend. Massage onto face. Let sit for 10 minutes and wash off.
How do YOU like to use pumpkin? Let us know in the comments below!
Peggy Kotsopoulos is a registered holistic nutritionist (RHN) and culinary consultant focused on teaching real health through lifestyle and dietary choices that are easy and delicious. She obtained her RHN designation from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, completed her health educator certification from Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, graduated from Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in California, and founded beVibrant—a food-based wellness consultancy. For more information, visit peggyk.com and follow Peggy K. on Twitter @BeVibranthHealth and on Google+.