Saturday, 31 October 2015
Healthy Halloween and the benefits of pumpkins
As Halloween approaches, sales of pumpkins are expected to hit one million as people enjoy the tradition of carving them into spooky faces. These brightly coloured veggies come in all shapes and sizes during the Autumn and Winter months and belong to the cucurbit (gourd) family along with cucumbers and melons. However, there's more to the pumpkin than a Halloween prop.
How to use them
Pumpkins are not the most commonly eaten veggies in the UK, which may be due to the fact that many people are unsure what to do with them. Butternut squash has become more popular and regularly features in cook books and food websites. They require a bit of preparation, but it's worth tackling their tough, hardy exteriors to get to the deliciously sweet flesh that can be roasted, puréed or boiled and is a great addition to risottos, salads, curries as well as sweet puddings and cakes. Roasting with the skin on also works if you're feeling a little lazy!
Keep the seeds!
You should always remember to keep the seeds as they make for a super healthy snack that can be stored for weeks at a fraction of the cost of shop-bought packs. Simply run the seeds under water to remove the stringy flesh and pat dry with kitchen towel then sprinkle with spices such as cumin, smoked paprika or chilli powder and bake in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes. Simply run the seeds under water to remove the stringy flesh and pat dry with kitchen towel then sprinkle with spices such as cumin, smoked paprika or chilli powder and bake in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes.
Health benefits of pumpkins and squashes
They have a low GI (glycaemic index) making them good starchy food for those trying to control their weight.
Pumpkin seeds a good source of magnesium, which is involved in converting food into energy and warding off anxiety.
Pumpkins and their seeds contain zinc and beta-carotene that help maintain a healthy immune system. Beta-carotene is abundant in pumpkins and squashes. This nutrient acts as a powerful antioxidant and is essential for healthy skin and eyes.
Pumpkins, like all veggies are rich in fibre (lacking in the typical UK diet), which is important for many different areas of health including digestion, heart health and protection from certain cancers.
Pumpkin seeds contain a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin in the brain. This hormone helps to promote mood and sleep. Try making the most of these veggies this winter. Happy Halloween!