As the autumn leaves fall and Halloween approaches, supermarkets adorn their shelves with a bountiful display of pumpkins, which take the spotlight as a symbol of abundance and prosperity.
But did you know that these seasonal staples aren't just for carving spooky faces? Pumpkins, often interchangeable with butternut squash, are packed with gut-friendly benefits.
Let's explore how they can support your digestive health!
4 Benefits of Pumpkin for the Gut
1) Supports Bowel Regularity
Pumpkin is a rich source of soluble fibre, which helps with constipation and diarrhoea by forming a gel-like structure in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This gel-like property promotes well-formed bowel movements and can slow down GI transit time to absorb water, also acting as a bulking agent, offering relief from constipation.4
2) Acts as a Prebiotic and Supports a Healthy Gut Microbiome
High in soluble fibre, pumpkin serves as a prebiotic, nourishing friendly gut microbes to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Gut bacteria ferment soluble fibre, producing anti-inflammatory compounds known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)3, which support the colon's cell lining and strengthen the gut barrier, reducing inflammation and the risk of gastrointestinal diseases.1
3) Promotes Healthy Digestion
Cooked pumpkin, similar to bananas, is rich in potassium and soluble fibre. Potassium is essential for digestive health as it enables peristalsis, the process where muscles in the intestines contract to push food through, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption. Low potassium levels can lead to constipation and bowel issues, making pumpkin a valuable addition to your diet.
4) Supports a Healthy Gut Lining
Pumpkin's flesh and seeds are packed with nutrients crucial for a robust gut lining. Beta-carotene in pumpkin converts to vitamin A, while pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, both vital for maintaining a healthy intestinal barrier. This barrier prevents food particles and bacteria from escaping the gut and causing inflammation.2
In conclusion, pumpkins are a versatile source of gut-friendly benefits, aiding digestion, promoting a healthy gut microbiome, and ensuring bowel regularity. With these nutritional insights in mind, let’s move on to our top recommended pumpkin-based recipes that celebrate the autumn season while nourishing your digestive health!
Gut-Friendly Pumpkin Recipes
Soothing Butternut Soup
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- One 4-pound pumpkin or butternut squash, mashed and heated
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
- ½ cup full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
Method: Blend all ingredients together and top with fresh black pepper and coriander. Serve with a spoon of non-fat probiotic yoghurt.
Pumpkin Spiced Cookies
- 2.5 cups (250 g) rolled or quick oats
- 1 cup (240 g) pure pumpkin puree
- 1 cup butter
- 2–3 tbsp maple syrup, agave syrup or coconut sugar
- 1–2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
Method: Line the baking tray with baking paper and a light coating of butter or olive oil. Mix up all ingredients and place them in cookie shapes. Place in the oven for 13-18 minutes until golden brown.
Baked Butternut Squash
- 1-2 large butternut squash, diced
- Butter and olive oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to season
- Additional seasonings like cinnamon, paprika, or rosemary for a flavourful kick
Method: Place the diced squash in a baking tray lined with aluminium foil. Add butter, olive oil, seasonings, and roast in the oven for 15-30 minutes.
Pumpkin Seed Topper
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flaked almonds
- Crushed pecans
Method: Mix the ingredients, and roast in the oven for 1-4 minutes for an extra crunch. Top on your porridge, mixed fruit, or even toast for a nutritious boost to your breakfast.
Enjoy these gut-friendly pumpkin delights as you embrace the autumnal season!