Veggie of the moment – Perfect Pumpkin!
Well… you couldn’t expect me to go through the whole of October and not mention pumpkin could you? They’re suddenly in abundance in the supermarkets, but there’s a lot more to pumpkin than a scary faced Halloween lantern…
They are a type of winter squash and in season until December, but did you know that pumpkin is actually a fruit? They fall under the official definition as a product of the flowering plant, the ovaries, and they have seeds inside. Definitions aside, they are delicious, packed full of healthy nutrients and incredibly versatile in savoury and sweet dishes.
Pumpkin is a great source of fibre, which is essential for a healthy digestive system and linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Fibre can also keep you feeling fuller for longer and an 80g portion counts as one of your five a day.
Like other orange fruits and vegetables, they contain beta-carotene, a plant pigment which when consumed, is converted to Vitamin A in the body. This antioxidant, along with Vitamin C and E also available in pumpkin, can help to strengthen our immune systems – just what we need right now as the winter months draw in.
These antioxidants also play a part in reducing inflammation. This is when your body, especially your immune system, is in a constant state of stress, and has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Vitamins A, C and E are also linked to other benefits such as strong eyesight and healthy skin which are especially important as we get older.
The flesh, skin and seeds are all edible when cooked, and its mildly sweet flavour make it a great addition to soups, salads and pasta dishes. As a simple side dish, just season with pepper and a little paprika and roast in the oven. Pop in the seeds sprinkled with cinnamon or chilli to roast at the same time, then add to your salad or soup for a crunchy nutritional boost!