It's T-minus seven days until Halloween. Which means if you haven't already done so, you're likely making plans to pick out one or two (or a dozen) pumpkins to serve as a canvas for your carving creativity.
But we all know what happens to our gloriously spooky and festive creations when the sun rises on Nov. 1. The gourds go out with the trash or become unfortunate "road art."
Certain pumpkins beg for a different kind of artistry — one with a culinary flavor. So this year, while you're at the patch, pick up an additional pumpkin — one grown for the purpose of being nutritious rather than nightmarish.
Although pumpkin may not be your first choice for a vegetable, hear us out. Actually, hear Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Jamie Pronschinske, who tells "La Crosse's Own" WXOW.com that not only are pumpkins "great sources of beta carotene, which is an antioxidant, which can help protect us against certain cancers and heart disease," but also a "precursor to Vitamin A, which can be good for our eyesight."
Fellow Mayo Clinic dietitian Anya Guy agrees, telling our friends at the Mayo Clinic News Network that pumpkins can be more to us than just inspiration for coffee flavoring and pie filling. "One cup of cubed pumpkin provides 30 calories and less than 1 gram of fat, whereas the same serving of sweet potato would offer triple the amount of calories," she says.
Guy says the health and dietary benefits of pumpkin don't end there, telling the Mayo Clinic News Network the round orange squashy delight is not only "a great source of fiber, iron and potassium" but can also be easily used as a "healthy substitute" in our daily cooking and baking. "It can be used instead of butter or oil in baking recipes," she says. "It could be cubed into soups or stews. You can even puree it into pancake mixtures. My personal favorite would be to use pureed pumpkin in my Greek yogurt for breakfast."
If you decide to go with canned pumpkin over fresh, both Guy and Pronschinske say to make sure it's 100 percent pumpkin with no artificial flavors, additives or fillers. "Look for 100 percent pure pumpkin puree without any added sugar," Guy says. "It's great."
Still need convincing? Give these recipes a try for yourself: pasta with pumpkin sauce, pumpkin cream cheese dip or spread, pumpkin-hazelnut tea cake, pumpkin spice muffins and whole wheat pumpkin pancakes. Share your results and other seasonal ruminations below before using the social media tools to share this story with all of your pumpkin-loving friends.