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Nutrition News: Pumpkin Mania

Charlyn Fargo on

Now that it's October, pumpkins seem to be everywhere. And our grocery store shelves are full of all things pumpkin-spiced -- from oatmeal and baking chips (like chocolate chips) to muffins and coffee. Starbucks hangs their fall on the sale of pumpkin spice lattes. The pumpkin spice products seem to announce the arrival of fall -- earlier and earlier.

When it comes to "real" pumpkin, whether in a can or gleaned from a pie, its bright orange color is a dead giveaway that it is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta-carotene performs many important functions in overall health. A diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.

But be aware: All things pumpkin-spiced are not full of healthy pumpkin. For many products, it's a flavoring rather than an ingredient.

If you love pumpkin, the key is using canned or fresh pumpkin to give foods a nutritious boost. Way beyond pumpkin pie, the pulp of this fleshy squash can be dried for fruit leather, cut into chunks and roasted, or added to sloppy Joes, chili or savory soups. Like mashed bananas in banana bread, pumpkin can add flavor and moisture to muffins, breads (just go easy on the sugar) and soups. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted and eaten as a healthy snack as well.

If you've never tried adding pumpkin to foods, give it a try. Nutritionally, it's a powerhouse, and you'll be glad you did.

Q and A

 

Q: What are ultraprocessed foods?

A: Food processing is any procedure that alters food from its natural state, such as heating, freezing, milling, mixing and adding flavorings, according to the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. Ultraprocessed foods are defined by Nova, the classification system used by food scientists and researchers, as ready-to-eat, packaged products with five or more ingredients that have gone through a number of processes to combine and transform them. Examples are processed meats, margarine, jarred sauces, cereals, chips and some frozen items -- multi-ingredient foods that no longer resemble the original food they are derived from. Eat less of these and more whole foods.

RECIPE

October is National Pork Month. Here's a recipe using pork tenderloin -- one of the leanest meats available. A 3-ounce serving offers vitamin B-6, thiamin, niacin, selenium and 24 grams of protein. It's also low in calories and fat.

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