We’re here! It’s the fall! It’s pumpkin season, one of my favorite culinary times of the year! Pumpkins are not only versatile in the kitchen, they’re nutritiously delicious! You’ve heard the phrase “eat the rainbow” if you work at AHS, because I say it all the time. It’s a great way to maximize variety and phytonutrient diversity in the diet — each color represents different phytonutrients. Orange represents beta carotene. Carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are all great sources of beta carotene.
Beta carotene’s biggest claim to fame is probably that it’s a vegetarian source of vitamin A. It provides about 50% of the vitamin A needed in our diets to stay healthy. Vitamin A is necessary for proper immune function and eye health. Beta carotene has been shown to protect against Adult Macular Degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, and it’s also been shown to protect the skin from sunburn, especially in individuals who are particularly sensitive. (source) The antioxidant benefits of beta carotene include protecting the body from certain cancers and free radical damage. Free radicals in the body result in premature aging and cell oxidation.
Pumpkins and Your Health
Now that we know that the beta carotene found in pumpkins is good for us, why else should we include pumpkins as part of a healthy diet? Pumpkins are a low-calories (49 per 1 cup) and a good source of fiber. They have a glycemic load of 3, which makes them a fantastic carb option for diabetics and those looking to reduce their insulin response, lose weight, or watch their carbs in general. It’s an overlooked addition to soups, stews, chili, and even post-workout smoothies. With 564 mg of potassium per serving, pumpkin can actually function as a solid post-workout food to reduce recovery time and cramping and rehydration (potassium is an electrolyte).
Coconut Creme Pumpkin Bars
This recipe has three parts: crust, filling, creme. All delicious, all with some legitimate nutritional value (albeit lots of maple syrup). Both the crust and the filling are inspired by the pumpkin pie recipe from Oh She Glows, but it’s not vegan like hers.
- 1/2 cup GF certified rolled oats, processed into a fine flour OR 1 cup GF oat flour
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 1 tbs coconut sugar
- 1.5 tbs ground flax
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbs maple syrup
- 3 tsp pasture ghee, melted
Instructions: preheat oven to 350, generously grease an 8×8 square baking dish with ghee. Process oats in a food processor or blender until finely ground and pour into bowl with all other dry ingredients except pecans. Grind pecans in food processor until oils release, but not so long that it turns to pecan butter. Add ghee and maple syrup and process until well-mixed. Pour wet contents into dry and hand mix until all ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Spread dough out onto baking dish and prebake for 4 minutes.
- 2 cups BPA-free organic canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 3 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
Instructions: mix arrowroot and maple syrup first, ensuring that there are no clumps, then add rest of ingredients and whisk until well-blended. Pour over prebaked crust and bake on 350F for 30-35 minutes
- Start with 2 cans of full-fat coconut milk to shoot for 1 cup coconut cream (it will not work without full-fat)
- 2 tbs pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Instructions: Refrigerate coconut milk for at least 6 hour, and skim the cream off the top (liquid will remain in the can — you can use it for smoothies or just toss it). Add all 3 ingredients to a food processor and blend until whipped. A hand mixer works great too. Using a rubber spatula, spread creme over the pumpkin filling layer. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.