Pumpkins aren’t just for carving

The pumpkin’s claims to fame are mostly limited to jack-o’-lanterns and pie. But it has a lot of unrecognized potentials — at least nutritionally.

“It would be nice if people would start using pumpkins for more than a dessert or a craft,” says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

According to botanists, pumpkins are technically a fruit. They are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes some 95 species including melons, cucumbers, and squash. (Yes, cucumbers and squash are fruits, too.) But when it comes to cooking, pumpkins are typically used more like a vegetable.

The soft flesh of the pumpkin is high in vitamin A and potassium, and contains 3 grams of fiber per cup when cooked, says Fung. It’s also low in calories and has no fat and no sodium. An added benefit of pumpkins: they are rich in beta carotene, which helps to give pumpkins, like carrots, their vibrant orange color, says Fung. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A, which may help preserve the health of your eyes, lungs, and heart and potentially reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, including colon cancer.

The pumpkin seeds inside have a completely different set of nutritional benefits. They’re rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as protein and vitamin E, says Fung. Pumpkin seeds are also a valuable source of magnesium, which can help to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.

You can eat pumpkin seeds with the shells on or off. And if you’re not interested in taking the time to pry the shells yourself, look for pepitas, which are shelled pumpkin seeds, in your local grocery store.

Did you know? Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state. It takes 110 days for a typical carving pumpkin to be full-grown for Halloween. Historians think pumpkins first grew 7,500 years ago in Central America. The name pumpkin is derived from the Greek word pepon, which translates to “large melon.”You can eat the flowers of the pumpkin vine, as well as the fruit. It was once thought that pumpkins were a cure for snake bites. We recommend a visit to the emergency department instead.

Picking your pumpkin

When you’re shopping for a pumpkin to eat, look for sugar pumpkins. Harvard nutrition experts say they are less stringy than the type of pumpkins most commonly used for seasonal fall display.

If wrestling with a whole pumpkin to scoop out the flesh and seeds sounds too labor intensive, canned pumpkin is a good — but slightly less preferable — option, says Fung.

“Fresh may be better because, in order to can things, you have to heat and sterilize them,” she says. This process may change the nutritional value. But canned pumpkin provided it doesn’t have any added ingredients, is still a good source of fiber and nutrients.

Try a new recipe stumped about how to incorporate pumpkin into your fall menu. Here’s an easy pumpkin soup to try from the USDA. Pumpkin and bean soupIngredients1 can white beans1 small onion, finely chopped1 cup water1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin1 1/2 cups apple juice1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, or ginger1/2 teaspoon black pepper1/4 teaspoon saltDirectionsBlend white beans, onion, and water with a potato masher or blender till smooth. In a large pot, combine the pumpkin, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg (or other spice), black pepper, and salt. Stir. Stir the blended bean mix into the pot. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until warmed through. Looking for more recipes to try? The USDA has a number of great links to information and pumpkin recipes on its site at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/pumpkin.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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