It’s National Pumpkin Day!

What’s orange and round and making an appearance all over the place at this time of year?

Yup, you guessed it; we’re talking pumpkins today in honor of National Pumpkin Day!

Whether you carve them, eat them, or even use them for a DIY beauty treatment, this seasonal squash is quite the useful plant to have on hand at this time of year.

From a nutritional standpoint, pumpkins are a great part of a healthy, Paleo regime. 

• Pumpkins help keep your vision sharp; A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A.

• They help with weight loss, thanks to their high fiber content; one cup offers three grams (and only 49 calories).

• By providing a rich source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, you can better arm against Cancer .

• And for those of you who are taking advantage of having a healthy body by moving it, you can also rest assured that your electrolytes will be balanced. A cup of cooked pumpkin has even more of the refueling nutrient potassium than a good old banana, with 564 milligrams to a banana’s 422, but with a lower glycemic index, helping to keep in your fat burning mode.

On the beauty front, you can create an at home scrub and mask using this popular squash, too, with the two recipes published by Women’s Health Magazine :

For the mask: in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup mashed pumpkin pulp (can be canned) and 1 tablespoon honey until smooth. Apply to clean, damp skin in the evening, and leave it on for 20 minutes. (This mask can be sticky, so be sure to wear an old T-shirt when using it.) Rinse with water and pat dry. Your skin will feel soft but not squeaky-clean, because this mask hydrates instead of stripping your skin of its natural oils. Apply once a week or whenever your skin is red or irritated.

And the scrub: In a bowl, blend 1/4 cup cornmeal, 2 tablespoons freshly crushed cranberries, 1 tablespoon buttermilk, and 2 teaspoons honey with a fork. Massage the scrub onto your face and neck for two or three minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Apply to clean, damp skin once or twice a week.

As far as the carving part is concerned, proceed just the way you would with cooking it- with a dose of creativity and fun!

Cut off the top, scoop out the seeds and rinse them out, before toasting them at 375 for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Let cool, then toss with your favorite spice blend for a crunchy topping to add to your salad or steamed veggies.

So long as you’re not following an autoimmune protocol, in which case you’d be avoiding all nuts and seeds, a handful of pumpkin seeds offers 8.5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 14 grams of heart healthy fat including the essential fatty acids, EFA, omega-3 and omega-6 which reduce inflammation and may help lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.  

Rather than going the canned route, opt for fresh.  

Pumpkin is easy to cook; simply halve or quarter and place cut side down in a glass or ceramic baking dish and bake at 425 until the skin is easily pierced with a fork.  Cooking times will vary based on the size of the pumpkin.

Remove from oven, turn cut side up on wooden cutting board and once cool, peel off and discard the tough outer skin.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use for soups, a post workout puree with soft-boiled egg and coconut oil on top, or check out my signature Paleoista’s Pumpkin Smoothie recipe!