Ingredient of the Week: This Stunning Superfood is More Than Just a Pretty (Carved) Face

October 30, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Ingredient of the Week: This Stunning Superfood is More Than Just a Pretty (Carved) Face

Gathering Thanksgiving inspiration from the Pilgrims? It's time to ditch the pie crust. 

The earliest pumpkin pie aficionados went crust (and gluten) free while baking the now-traditional Thanksgiving dessert. Instead of mixing together butter, flour, and sugar to form the first flaky golden layer—it was 1621, after all—they went straight to the good stuff and baked their pumpkin pie right inside of the gourd.

Sort of genius, if you ask us. Cutting out the crust leaves room for more pumpkin-y goodness. And this superfood doesn't need to be tied down to carbs and sugar in order to taste and do good for your body.

The antioxidant- and nutrient-dense fruits are an autumnal superfood, and their bright orange hue gives away just how loaded in carotenoids they really are. Carotenoids are orange, yellow, or red colored fat-soluble antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. For plants, the bright compounds protect their leaves from the sun, and in humans we see that the body utilizes them to fight cancer, protect itself from heart disease, and decrease risk for developing macular degeneration.

But their beauty is more than skin deep: A single serving of pureed pumpkin contains a whopping seven grams of fiber, three grams of protein, 80 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, and weighs in at just under 100 calories. Pretty impressive for a gourd that's typically reserved for carving.

It's not just the vibrantly colored flesh that's got good-for-you nutrients—pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are a superfood in their own right. Full of the amino acid tryptophan, these unassuming seeds help the body convert and transport serotonin. And of course, serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps us achieve balanced and stable moods. If chilling with your family around Thanksgiving drives you nuts, consider tossing back a few of these potent seeds!

The high fiber count and creamy consistency make pumpkin an ideal addition to smoothies and porridge, especially if you're looking to keep winter weight at bay. Plus, pumpkin spice. Right?

Avoid cooking with gargantuan carving pumpkins—they're more grainy and too wet—and instead opt for sugar pumpkins, which are easy to find in the produce aisle.

If you're not a fan of the sweet swirling flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg together, try pumpkin in more savory dishes. Ever been to a sushi restaurant and ordered vegetable tempura? Odds are you've chowed down on deep-fried pumpkin without even realizing it. And because of it's density, adding canned pumpkin to soups and stews gives it thickness and heartiness without extra calories.

Pumpkin is also delightful mixed into breads and pies, but often these recipes are full of sugar and other ingredients that are less than stellar. Instead, try our gluten-free pumpkin bread for a perfect companion to spiced cider, or opt for savory pumpkin hummus to wow friends at your next holiday gathering.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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This article is related to: Nutrition, Pumpkin, Superfood, Ingredient of the Week, Halloween, Fall

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