By Haley Adel, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor
It’s October so everyone knows what that means…Pumpkin Season! Starbucks has been serving up its assortment of pumpkin spice drinks for weeks, while Trader Joe’s has been lining its shelves with loads of pumpkin-inspired products. To get with the season, we thought we would provide some of the health benefits of pumpkin, and share some of our favorite pumpkin dishes.
For starters, pumpkin is a fruit! This winter squash has seeds inside, and therefore falls into the fruit category. Contrary to its categorization, most culinary preparations of pumpkin treat it as a vegetable. Either way, it is a great source of nutrients! For starters, pumpkin is high in carotenoids. Carotenoids are nutrients that serve as antioxidants. That means they help protect the body from certain damage and stress. Carotenoids are also converted to Vitamin A, making pumpkin a great way to increase Vitamin A. This vitamin supports both eye sight and skin health.
More importantly for students, pumpkin is full of nutrients that help strengthen the immune system. These include Vitamin C and Vitamin E, in addition to Vitamin A. The benefits come from the ‘meaty’ part of pumpkin. If you don’t like the taste of pumpkin, but love the seeds, there are health benefits for you too! Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are packed with antioxidants. Additionally, they are high in magnesium, which is important for bone health.
Pumpkin is a delicious seasonal treat. Since it is commonly available for only a part of the year, we may not always take advantage of its different culinary prospects. We know pumpkin pie is always a favorite, but we wanted to include some recipes for less common uses of pumpkin. Our first recipe is for pumpkin turkey chili. It’s a tasty meal that will keep you warm as the weather begins to chill. Our second recipe is for easy yet scrumptious pumpkin chocolate chip bars that satisfy the sweet tooth.
Not only are these recipes delectable, but they also provide the nutritional benefits mentioned above because they include pumpkin puree. If you want the health advantages of pumpkin, make sure the product you consume is made from actual pumpkin. A pumpkin-flavored treat can also be delicious, but will just not provide the same favorable benefits. If you enjoyed the recipes we included, please let us know in the comments section!
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20-30 minutes
- 2 T olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 bell peppers, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-oz can white beans, drained
- 1 14-oz can pumpkin puree
- 1/5 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup bone broth
- 1 T cocoa powder
- 2 T chili powder
- 1 T ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add oil to large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in onion, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper and sauté until soften, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add in ground turkey. Cook until meat is no longer pink.
- Add in diced tomatoes, white beans, pumpkin, tomato paste, broth, cocoa powder and seasonings, stirring everything together.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Recipe from: Clara Norfleet @foodfitnessandfaith
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bar (pictured above)
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 28 minutes
- 2 ½ cups oats
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease an 8×8 glass pan with cooking spray
- Mix oats, pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, honey, vanilla, salt, and spices in bowl until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Pour mixture into greased pan and bake for 28-30 minutes.
- Let sit for 15-20 minutes
- Cut into squares and devour!
Recipe from: Melanie http://www.nutritiouseats.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-bars/
Brown, Mary J. “Top 11 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds.” HealthLine, 24 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds#section5.
Raman, Ryan. “9 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin.” HealthLine, 28 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/pumpkin.