Fall is my absolute favorite season—the cozy clothing, cool weather and changing leaves are all spectacular in and of themselves, but I have a particular fascination with the food. Sweet potatoes and honeycrisp apples are at their peak, figs sweeten up the dessert menu and I’m pretty sure I use ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger on running rotation for about three months straight. However, I don’t think there is a single food that represents fall better than pumpkin. Everyone at Team GHU shares a deep love for all things pumpkin, most of all Chris. Pumpkin spice lattes, overnight pumpkin spice oatmeal, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin pancakes, the list goes on. But often these recipes use only a portion of a pumpkin, i.e. the puree that you buy from the store. So I took the challenge of using a whole pumpkin and came up with three healthy and seriously delicious recipes you can make using a pumpkin in its entirety: the shell, the guts and the seeds. But first, let’s look at all of the health benefits of pumpkin so you can feel great about your favorite fall ingredient.
Related: 33 Yummy Pumpkin Recipes
Besides being delicious, pumpkins are good for you. Here’s why:
1. It can ward off wrinkles.
Got your attention? Yes, pumpkin has anti-aging effects due to the presence of zinc and vitamin C which works to tighten and firm up the skin. It also contains Vitamin A which helps to speed up the renewal process of our cells as well as hydroxy acids which can help in the removal of dead skin. So, eat up, your tastebuds’ love may just be your skin’s best secret.
2. It’s low calorie.
At only 30 calories per cup of pumpkin, pumpkins are very low calorie while also filling you up. This makes pumpkin a great option for weight loss. To aid in your weight loss efforts, swap a high caloric food out of your diet and replace it with pumpkin!
3. It can boost your mood and help you sleep.
If you’ve struggled with getting good sleep, you may have turned to a melatonin supplement. But did you know that pumpkin can actually help you sleep? Pumpkin, particularly the seeds contain about 600mg of trytophan which in turn produces serotonin and melatonin in the body. Melatonin, as you many know, aids in getting a better night sleep, along with serotonin which also helps to regulate your mood and make you happier!
4. It’s anti-cancer.
If you come across a food that is naturally orange in color (sorry, Cheetos, you don’t count), you can be sure that beta-carotene is involved. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A, which studies have shown can reduce your risk of certain types of cancers.
5. It’s a great source of potassium.
When people think of good sources of potassium, bananas often come to mind. And while that’s true, did you know pumpkin actually contains 33% more potassium than bananas? In fact, pumpkin seed contains roughly 588 mg of potassium. So next time you’re looking for a post-workout fuel that will aid in recovery and replenish your electrolytes, try a handful of pumpkin seeds or our delicious pumpkin pie smoothie.
6. It’s rich in fiber to keep you full.
Whether you’re consuming canned pumpkin, pumpkin seeds or boiled, raw pumpkin, all sources will give you a good boost of fiber. In fact, pumpkin is often recommended as a natural treatment for constipation as 1 cup of canned pumpkin boast 7.1 grams of fiber. And along with it’s digestive benefits, fiber also causes you to feel fuller for longer which means you’re less likely to overeat.
7. It’s heart healthy.
Another benefit of all that fiber? It can lower your risk of coronary heart disease according to studies conducted on high-fiber diets. Pumpkin seeds are also rich sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc and antioxidants which are beneficial for heart health.
8. It can boost vision.
As a major source of vitamin A, namely 200% of the recommended daily intake, pumpkin has also ben credited to boost your vision. The presence of the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, can also help prevent cataracts.
9. It can reduce blood glucose levels.
Pumpkin has been touted as one of the best foods for diabetics due to it’s content of Vitamin A and C as well as the iron and unsaturated fats found in the seeds. Wed MD cites that certain scientific studies have even shown pumpkin to “reduce blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance and increase the amount of insulin the body produces.”
Now that you know how amazing pumpkins are, here are three recipes to use up every ounce of your pumpkin! Bear in mind, we aren’t including pumpkin pie in the below list and you may be asking yourself after reading all of the above benefits “is pumpkin pie good for you?”. And while we’re all for desserts in moderation, unfortunately sugary pumpkin treats often include only a small amount of actual pumpkin or at the very least cancel out any benefits due to the added sugar and processed flour. So, while we’re still eating a piece at Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie doesn’t fall under the “healthy” pumpkin category.
Only ever used pumpkin in a can? Well, here’s your chance to get in touch with the real stuff. By combining the squash with other rich and comforting ingredients like pancetta, potatoes and gruyere, this recipe is sure to warm your home on the coolest of nights.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
2 sugar pumpkins (about 6-8 inches each)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, diced & divided
4 oz. pancetta, cubed
3-4 small red potatoes, cubed
1 medium apple (preferably firm and tart), cubed
4 oz. mix gruyere & white cheddar cheese, cubed
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 cup chives, chopped1 cup heavy cream
Dash of ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine olive oil, one shallot, pancetta and sauté until cooked through; set aside.
- Carefully cut a cap out of pumpkins (large enough to be able to work in) and remove top from pumpkins; scoop out guts (set aside to make maple pumpkin butter and roasted pumpkin seeds).
- Generously salt and pepper the insides of pumpkin distributing all over flesh.
- Combine remaining two shallots, pancetta, potatoes, apple, cheese, garlic, and chives and scoop into pumpkins until full but not overflowing.
- Stir cream, nutmeg and cloves together and pour over pumpkins (about ½ cup each). Cover with pumpkin tops and place on baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven 1.5 hours; remove top and cook an additional 20 minutes. To serve, slice pumpkins into quarters OR scoop filling out and distribute.
Makes approx. 12 oz.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
2 cups pumpkin fiber, seeds removed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1/3-1/2 cup maple syrup
- Puree pumpkin fiber in a blender until smooth.
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer and heat additional 30 minutes until slightly thickened.
What are the benefits of eating pumpkin seeds? Well, besides all of the benefits in the above list, pumpkin seeds are also a great source of several minerals including: magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, fiber and cancer-fighting selenium!
Makes approx. 12 oz.
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 25 minutes
2 cups pumpkin seeds, raw
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Freshly ground Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt) & pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour melted butter onto pumpkin seeds and stir in bowl.
- Add seasoning and stir until coated.
- Layer onto baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
And hey, if you’re pumpkin obsessed like us, you can even eat all three of these recipes for different meals during the day: maple pumpkin butter on toast for breakfast, cajun roasted pumpkin seeds for a mid-afternoon snack and stuffed pumpkin for a comforting and flavor-packed dinner.