October is the only month of the year that you can find pumpkin readily available in the shops. The majority of these seem to be used for carving autumnal decorations, but let’s not forget that pumpkin is a versatile vegetable suitable for many dishes.
Because pumpkin has a high water content, it is relatively low in calories and carbohydrate. Along with fibre, it also contains good levels of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2 and vitamin E. However, the biggest boast of pumpkin is its vitamin A content, in the form of beta-carotene. This is a carotenoid that turns to vitamin A when in the body. Whereas with animal or supplemental sources of vitamin A it is possible to ingest too much, the body only converts as much beta carotene to vitamin A as it needs. This is particularly helpful for women who are pregnant, where a fine balance needs to be held between adequate and excess vitamin A.
As well as beta carotene, pumpkin contains other carotenoids including alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. These phytonutrients are known to be antioxidants, which are so important in neutralising the free-radical molecules produced by our bodies’ metabolic processes.
The benefits of vitamin A include supporting the immune system, which is good to know at this time of year. Vitamin A is also helpful for healthy skin. It may also help protect skin cells from harmful UV rays.
Pumpkin contains additional phytonutrients including lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are important for eye health, particularly linked with lower risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Don’t be put off by its size! The easiest way to prepare this beautiful vegetable is to give it a good wash and then cut into slices, as you would a melon, with a sharp knife. You can then pull the seeds out from the centre of each slice and carefully remove the skin. Chop through the slice to make cubes. These can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, or frozen to use at a later date.
Pumpkin doesn’t usually have as much flavour as butternut squash. Therefore, it can be made more interesting by tossing the cubed pumpkin flesh in one or two crushed cloves of garlic before roasting in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Cook slowly at a medium oven temperature until tender. Serve with anything! Use in place of potato, toss into rocket leaves for a warm salad, or top with a poached egg.
A warming autumnal meal doesn’t get much simpler than this! Serve with Protein Low-Carb rolls for a complete meal.