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Cooking Low-Carb with Pumpkin

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Updated November 01, 2013

Pumpkins for Good Nutrition

Fall Pumpkins

Photo © Cody Mummau

Did You Know… that pumpkin is one of the vegetables allowed during Atkins’ Induction phase?

Did You Know…that pumpkin is chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants?

Did You Know…that pie is not the only way to cook pumpkin?

Pumpkin is one of those vegetables that is almost emblematic of fall – it makes us think of harvest, of holidays, of frost, of lengthening nights and the oncoming winter. And yet, the only way it usually gets to the table is in a store-bought pie, or perhaps a can of pie filling that goes in a pie we made ourselves. But pumpkin can be so much more -- and since pumpkin keeps for 6 months whole or for years in a can, it can be a year-round addition to our diets.

Pumpkin is chock full of nutrients. You can tell by its bright color that it’s going to be going to be good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Half a cup of canned pumpkin has 6.5 grams of effective carbohydrate and 3.5 grams of fiber.

The seeds are also worth latching on to. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are loaded with minerals, seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis. A quarter cup has about 5 grams of effective carb and 1.5 grams of fiber.

Selection

For cooking, you want a pumpkin that is heavy for its size. The lighter ones are drier, with a larger open space in the middle. For the most part, stay away from the large pumpkins when selecting a pumpkin for eating – 2 to 5 lbs is about right.

Storage

Pumpkins can keep for a long time in a cool (ideally 50 to 60 degrees) dry place. Put newspapers underneath just in case, though. Once the pumpkin is cut open, you need to use it within a couple of days (or freeze it) as it can mold quickly. Cooked, it’s fine in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

Basic Easy Cooking Techniques

For pumpkin puree: Remember, you heard it here first: You don’t need to cut the pumpkin open before you roast it. I’m not kidding. Just jab it with a knife once or twice to vent the steam, put the whole darned thing on a baking sheet, and pop it in the oven at 350 F for an hour or so, until you can easily stick a knife into it. (Once I had to leave in the middle of this, so I turned off the oven after 20 minutes, and when I came back several hours later it was perfectly cooked.) Cool, then scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff with a spoon, or pull it out with tongs. It is SO MUCH EASIER than when it is raw.

If you want chunks of pumpkin, you’ll have to cut into it raw (though I have wondered if “par-roasting” would work to make the skin easier to hack into). Or find a store where you can buy it already in chunks. Or beg the produce guy at your local market to do it.

Roasting the Seeds, let them dry on paper towels, then oil and salt them (and any other seasonings you want) and slow roast them in a 250 F oven until they smell good – about 45 to 60 minutes. Stir them every 15 minutes or so. Here's a quicker way to roast pumpkin seeds.

Ways to Eat Pumpkin

Pumpkin can be used in any squash recipe, and it has a depth of flavor that many other winter squashes don’t. Of course, we have to have pumpkin pie, and my low-carb pumpkin pie never fails to get raves. Here are some other low-carb recipes with pumpkin:
  1. About.com
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  5. Pumpkin Nutrition and Recipes - Nutrition and Benefits of Pumpkin

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