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Sharp Health News

Pumpkin power (infographic)

Oct. 26, 2016

Jack-o'-lanterns weren't always made of pumpkins. Originally, potatoes got all the carving love. Irish immigrants brought us their tradition, but found pumpkins easier to cut.

Today, pumpkin carving is a rite of passage for the fall season. We cut them, we display them — and then we throw them away. This year, make the most of this gorgeous gourd. Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian at Sharp HealthCare's Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program, shares her prep tips on all of the pumpkin's usable parts. And the best thing about them? They're nutritious!

Pumpkin power (infographic). 5 healthy uses for your Halloween pumpkin. You can add a new twist to your carving party by using all of your pumpkin parts. However, the classic carving pumpkins don’t taste that great. To use your pumpkin for more than scaring ghouls, choose one that’s smaller, between four and 8 pounds; smoother, with a duller shell; and labeled sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin. Seeds. The amino acid and pumpkin seeds may help regulate mood, and the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats support heart health. Pumpkin seeds taste great roasted with Cajun spice, garlic, nutmeg or Worcestershire sauce. Flesh. With vitamin A, beta carotene and potassium, pumpkin flash can help improve eyesight, skin health, immunity and muscle strength, and may play a role in protection against cancer. Pumpkin flesh can be puréed for soups, muffins, coffee drinks or oatmeal. Or try it cubed and baked for sides, salads, chili or stir-fries. Guts. Soft, silky and full of that wonderful pumpkin scent, the guts are great for DIY skin products. Use the guts in a sugar body scrub mixed with coarse sugar, a bit of honey and sweet almond oil. Bonus bits – leaves and flowers. Did you know you can eat pumpkin leaves and flowers? Though trace amounts are low, pumpkin leaves and flowers contain vitamin A, Foley and potassium. These nutrients may help with eyesight, skin, heart and muscle health. Leaves can be boiled and seasoned; cooked with vegetables; or blended into a smoothie. Mix the flowers in salads, soups or sautés. My favorite way to use pumpkin is adding pureed flesh to chili for a unique fall flavor, but you can also catch me adding it to smoothies and blended coffee drinks, says Ursula Ridens, RDN, registered dietician at Sharp HealthCare’s Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program.

View the printable version of this infographic.

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