If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them. -- Jack Handy (aka Al Franken), Deep Thoughts from Saturday Night Live
There is NO connection whatsoever between the wealth of nutrition a pumpkin provides and the quote above. I just like Al Franken's Jack Handy. Since he used the word "pumpkin" in the quote, it gave me a good enough reason to use it. It all seriousness, pumpkins are a truly great source of nutrients that stretch far beyond pumpkin pie!
The pumpkins that work best for cooking, technically called "culinary pumpkins," are smaller and sweeter than the carving variety. If you're not planning a trip to the pumpkin patch anytime, most stores sell culinary pumpkins this time of year. Of course you can always resort to a good can of hard-packed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie puree, which contains a lot of more sugar). Check out the Pumpkin Curry Soup recipe below. I made it over the weekend. It's easy, super healthy and probably one of the top three soups I've ever made...if I don't mind saying so myself. Before I get to the recipe, everyone should know why pumpkin is so healthy!
1) Cancer-fighting Carotenes: Little do many realize that pumpkin is an excellent source of carotenes. When you think colorful fruits and veggies, think carotenes. Generally speaking, the more intense the color, the greater the amount of carotenes. Carotenes have antioxidant qualities, which help to protect our cells from cancer. Pumpkin, in particular, seems to play a particularly strong defensive role against lung cancer.1
2) Type 2 Diabetes Protection: While a healthy diet and overall healthy lifestyle are key to warding off type 2 diabetes, pumpkin also plays a role in protecting us from this disease - again, largely due to the high level of carotenes.1
3) Fiber-full: Pumpkins are also a good source of fiber, which help with digestion and make you feel fuller longer. For more details on the benefits of fiber, check this out.
4) Good Source of Potassium: Pumpkins are a good source of this nutrient that helps to keep high blood pressure in check, ease tension and maintain good muscular function.
5) Loads of Vitamin E: Pumpkin seeds are a great place to find vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that also provides plenty of antioxidants which guard cells from free radical damage.
Enjoy pumpkins when they're in season, and preferably grown locally! If you've got 30 minutes, here is a super simple recipe for a cool fall evening.
Pumpkin Curry Soup
2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of red onion, chopped
3 1/2 cups of chicken stock (if vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock)
1-30oz can of hard-packed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie puree)
1-15oz can of coconut milk (if you're not crazy about coconut milk, substitute 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk)
2 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp real maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat, then add onion. Cook onions they're translucent, then add garlic. Cook for one more minute. Add chicken stock, pumpkin and coconut milk. Stir continuously for several minutes, or until mixture simmers. Reduce heat to low and stir in curry powder. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion (hand) blender until pieces of onion are pureed. Finally, add in maple syrup and sea salt.
Serve immediately with a slice of warm, grainy bread. Enjoy!
1 Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York: Atria Books, 2005. Print.