Health Watch -- Pumpkin Power

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Pumpkins are good for more than just fall decor.

Pumpkins are a colorful addition to an autumn centerpiece, but nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say they also can make a nutritious addition to your diet. Pumpkin flesh is loaded with important nutrients, and it’s low in fat and calories – unless, of course, you bake it into a pie using heavy cream and lots of sugar.

Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern, says pumpkin is an excellent source of important vitamins like A and C. And it’s not just the pumpkin flesh that’s good for you. Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber and are a good source of vitamin B-12 and polyunsaturated fatty acids – one of the so-called “good” fats.

When you shop for pumpkins to use for decorating, pick up one or two to eat. Smaller pumpkins tend to have softer and tastier meat. Look for pumpkins that are free of blemishes and bruises. Store pumpkins in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to cook with them.

What can you make with pumpkin other than pies? You can bake and serve pumpkin much like you would any winter squash. It makes a good base for colorful soups, too. Pumpkin pie isn’t even all bad, especially if you serve it as a custard without the crust. It’s got a lot more nutrition and fiber than most other desserts, and it’s lower in fat and calories.

For the best flavor, roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven. Then you can use them as snacks or as a topping for soups or salads.

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