The start of fall reconnects us with a variety of hearty foods that keep us full, satisfied, and nourished as we prepare for the cold winter months. Squash, carrots, beets, fennel, apples, and dark leafy greens are all autumn crops, yet none evoke the season quite like pumpkin.
This time of year, pumpkin is everywhere. And while the singular “pumpkin spice” flavor takes center stage in most desserts, drinks, and baked goods, the ingredient’s nutrient profile is diverse and worth celebrating. Let’s take a look at some of the most plentiful nutrients you’ll receive if you try our recipe for homemade pumpkin soup or a real-pumpkin latte (below).
The soluble fiber found in pumpkins forms an almost gel-like substance when dissolved in water. This property of fiber is known to help stabilize blood sugars, slow digestion, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Soluble fiber is also responsible for helping to lower LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, by binding to dietary fats, inhibiting their absorption in the small intestine.
The beautiful orange color of pumpkin is not just for show; it proves that pumpkin is rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are all beneficial for our eyes and vision. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A during digestion and plays a role in immune function by creating white blood cells.
Just 1 cup of pumpkin supplies 49% of our daily need for vitamin K, which helps create proteins needed for blood clotting, an important process in repairing damaged blood vessels. Vitamin K also helps activate proteins that build bones, which can help prevent against osteoporosis.
The recommended daily intake of potassium comes in at a whopping 4,700 mg/day, and just 1 cup of pumpkin covers more than 500 mg of that! Potassium is a key nutrient that helps balance our sodium intake, which manages healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also a vital electrolyte in the role of muscle contraction, allowing for basic everyday movements.
Pumpkin is undoubtedly a powerhouse of a food, giving our bodies a hefty package of nutrients in just one cup. And the good news is, you don’t have to mask the benefits of pumpkin with added sugars and fats that could derail your health. Below are two ways you can make pumpkin flavored goods good for you.
Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Crispy Kale
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 baking pumpkins
- 2 medium shallots
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 sage leaves
Crispy Kale Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb cleaned and chopped kale
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛–¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Finely chop shallots and mince garlic. Set aside.
- Cut pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Cut side facing down, bake the pumpkins until soft enough to penetrate with a fork (40–50 minutes).
- Once pumpkins are cool enough to touch, peel off skin and cut into cubes.
- Over medium heat and in a large soup pot, cook the shallots in 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent.
- Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add pumpkin, vegetable or chicken stock, coconut milk, maple syrup, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer for 5–10 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
- Finely chop sage and stir into soup a few minutes before serving.
Crispy Kale Method (Can be made ahead of time)
- Preheat oven to 325°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, toss kale with olive oil until well coated.
- Spread kale on lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
- Use tongs to rotate kale and bake for another 10–15 minutes, until the leaves are crispy.
- Sprinkle with salt and red pepper to taste.
- Use to garnish each bowl of soup.
Real-Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 8 ounces freshly brewed coffee
- ½ cup whole milk (or unsweetened soy milk. almond milk, or coconut milk)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- Over medium heat, whisk together the milk and pumpkin puree until the mixture begins to steam.
- Remove the milk mixture from the heat and stir in the pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. If you have one, use a frother to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
- Add the milk mixture to a warm cup of coffee and sprinkle with cinnamon.