Come fall, pumpkin patches abound as do recipes for pumpkin-based baked goods. Never a fan of pumpkin pie, I do love a delicious yet healthy pumpkin bread.
Pumpkins are in the squash family and high on the list of vegetables rich in vitamin A (245% of the RDI), which is a key nutrient for immunity and eye health. They also contain the anti-oxidant, beta carotene, which scavenges free radicals that otherwise cause damage to our cells. Free radicals are responsible for systemic inflammation otherwise known as oxidative stress, which can be an underlying cause of chronic disease such as cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes (and by the way, pumpkin is used to mitigate diabetes because it also has sugar lowering effects). These scavengers are also responsible for aging, inside and out (i.e. wrinkled skin). Though vitamin A and beta carotene are the nutrients touted most when it comes to pumpkin, this vegetable is also a solid source of vitamin C, iron, folate, vitamin E, and fiber, among other vitamins and minerals. What’s more is if you’re into pumpkin seeds, you could additionally get cholesterol lowering benefits of sterols, omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids, which may contribute to heart and liver health. The seeds also contain protein with high proportions of amino acids and tryptophan, which if you’ve been having trouble sleeping, might be the answer to your insomnia. And here’s a less known fact: according to studies, pumpkin also has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. The takeaway? All around, the plethora of nutrients in pumpkin make it a vegetable you should definitely make the most of when it’s in season.
Whereas fresh is always best, you have to be willing to put up with a bit of a mess (scooping out its innards) and a time investment when cooking with pumpkin, because cooking this squash requires about one and a half hours in the oven. That said, there are many great canned varieties on the market that are organic and additive-free. Check out 365 at Whole Foods, Libby’s, and Thrive, which are well-reputed canned pumpkin brands. Whichever you choose, make sure to read the labels to guarantee that pure pumpkin is the only ingredient.
In this recipe, I choose to take the long route using fresh pumpkin. So here’s how I prepare my fresh pumpkin for this delectable healthy pumpkin bread recipe. First, I carve the pumpkin. Second, I draw a circle around the stem. Third I get out my carving knife and slice away, being extra careful of my fingers. Next, I pull off the top and toss it. Finally, I scoop out the stringy gooey pumpkin innards (the pulp) and scrape it all away from the pumpkin itself. The pumpkin is now ready to be sliced into smaller pieces and baked. I like to cut it in half first and then go from there, sectioning it into pieces small enough to fit on a sheet pan or in a pyrex dish. Then, I place the sections face up on the sheet and brush them with olive oil. Now it’s time to pop them in the oven and bake them for about 90 minutes until they’re soft and tender (I insert a toothpick to test its softness). When done, I remove them from the oven, let them cool so that I can handle them, and peel off their skins. Voila! The pumpkin is ready to be smashed (you can use a potato smasher, food processor, or even a fork) and measured for this recipe.
In addition to the fact that this pumpkin bread boasts myriad nutrients, it is also healthy because:
- Pumpkin itself is low in fat and calories
- There is very little added fat in the recipe
- The recipe calls for buttermilk rather than whole milk, which is lower in calories and fat than whole milk
- I’ve swapped conventionally grown table sugar with organic cane sugar, which is it’s far less processed sibling
Serves: 1 loaf
Preparation Time: One hour and fifteen minutes
2 large eggs
¾ cup organic cane sugar
1 cup smashed fresh pumpkin
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Lightly grease your bread pans (I made 3 small loaves but you can make 1 large one if you prefer) and dust them with flour. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the smashed pumpkin and buttermilk, then the oil and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt over wet mixture. Beat until the dry ingredients blend thoroughly with the wet ones. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.
Transfer the batter to the bread pan (s) and bake until golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes, until golden on top and upon insertion, a toothpick comes out clean. Take the bread out of the oven, let cool, and serve warm.