For those who live in the northern hemisphere, fall has just begun. With the change of seasons comes some of the best produce, including different varieties of squash and, of course, pumpkins. Keep reading to learn about the nutritional benefits of pumpkins and how to include them in your gut-friendly dishes.
Pumpkins are part of the squash family and come in various shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors.
Most pumpkin varieties are sweet, but their delicate flavor can be transformed into savory dishes with the right seasonings and spices.
Pumpkins are gut friendly because they offer nourishing vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fibers.
Best pumpkin varieties for eating
Pumpkins grow in different shapes, colors, sizes, and varieties. Although all pumpkins are edible, only a few have a silky texture that is worth eating. Here are five varieties you may want to look for the next time you shop:
|Cushaw striped pumpkin||This pumpkin has green and white stripes and a classic gourd shape with a narrow, swan-shaped neck. This pumpkin tastes sweet after cooking and can be steamed for an extra smooth texture.|
|Fairytale pumpkin||A flat pumpkin with deep ribbing that makes it look too pretty to eat. This pumpkin is a great option for silky, smooth soups. You can use the hollowed pumpkin to serve your soup at dinner parties.|
|Casper pumpkin||This pumpkin is stark white on the outside with bright orange flesh inside. This pumpkin is a great option for roasting and serving as a side dish or in pies.|
|Sugar pumpkin||A small pumpkin with a deep orange color. This variety is one of the sweetest, is rich with pulp, and is a great option for making pumpkin pie and other desserts.|
|Long Island cheese pumpkin||The exterior has a creamy orange-yellow color that resembles a pastel version of a classic pumpkin. It is a great option for soups and other savory stews or curries.|
Nutritional benefits of pumpkin
Pumpkin offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — which are critical for preventing chronic diseases. All pumpkins have:
- Vitamin C
- Essential B vitamins
You can buy canned pumpkin puree at most grocery stores, which makes it a convenient option year-round.
How to prepare pumpkin
Before eating a pumpkin:
- Wash the exterior with a brush and warm running water.
- Remove any obvious dirt or debris.
- Pat it dry with a towel before beginning your prep.
The pulp is easier to remove after roasting or boiling your pumpkin. The heat softens the flesh, and you can scoop or cut as much as you need for your recipe. Common ways to eat pumpkin include adding it to soups, curries, and stews or using it in baking.
Pumpkin rind is tough and is often discarded during prep. However, the peel is edible when prepared correctly. Save these pieces and bake them with oil and salt to create a crunchy snack for later.
Save the seeds
Pumpkin seeds can also be saved and turned into a nutritious and delicious snack. Toss them in a bowl with oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder before baking them on a flat tray for 30–45 minutes. Flip them halfway through to prevent burning.
You can add roasted pumpkin seeds to salads, soups, stews, and even a savory trail mix. You can refrigerate them in a sealed container to extend their shelf life and freshness.
Gut-friendly fall meals
Fall is the kickoff for soup and chili season. Here are some easy pumpkin meals you can make this fall:
- Pumpkin curry. Add oil, onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, red bell pepper, ground ginger, and curry powder to a pot. Stir until everything is softened, and add pumpkin puree and red lentils. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
- Silky pumpkin rice with shrimp. Add delicious vegetables to this dish, such as shredded kale, diced zucchini, garlic, onion, and sundried tomatoes. You can cook this in an air fryer to speed up the cooking process.
- Cubed pumpkin casserole. Add thinly sliced cabbage, mushrooms, shredded chicken, diced carrots, celery, olive oil, and your favorite seasoning. Bake for 40 minutes and garnish with fresh parsley before serving.
- Pumpkin hummus. Hummus is not a meal, but it can be a snack or an appetizer. Blend half a can of chickpeas, cooked pumpkin, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Serve with fresh vegetables or baked crackers.
- Diced pumpkin chili with lean ground beef. Add corn, bell pepper, carrots, celery, and canned tomatoes to your chili.
A gut-friendly diet includes a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and high-quality starches.
Choosing the right pumpkin
You should pick a pumpkin that has a healthy, intact exterior. Lift the gourd to inspect the bottom and check for any signs of mold or decay. Obvious discoloration (brown, green, or black) can signify spoilage and should not be consumed.
If you have access to a car, consider driving out to a local farmer and buying pumpkins fresh from the land. Seeing where food is grown is a fun experience for children and a good reminder to appreciate the farmers who grow delicious foods for us to enjoy.
- USDA Nutrient Database. Pumpkin.
- Plants. Nutritional value and therapeutic benefits of pumpkin.