Beyond Thanksgiving dessert and carving jack-o’-lanterns, this autumn gourd has a host of health benefits. Here are five ways pumpkins can improve your diet, sleep and skin, plus five easy and nutritious pumpkin recipes.
1. Healthy eyes
Pumpkin is a rich source of beta-carotene—it’s what gives it that rich, vibrant colour. Packed with potent antioxidants, it helps protect your vision from degeneration. Bonus: You’ll also see stronger nails and healthier hair.
2. Glowing skin
Pumpkins are rich in a host of skin-healthy vitamins: the properties from antioxidant-rich vitamin A (retinol) act as a shield for your skin, protecting you from the damaging affects of free radicals; vitamin C helps promote collagen production and renew the skin for a glowing face; and vitamin E improves skin tone.
3. Energy boost
The daily recommended iron intake for women is higher than for men, and as women age or become pregnant, the necessary dose increases. Pumpkins are full of iron, an immunity-boosting mineral that can help ward of illness and fatigue and keep your energy high.
4. Better diet
High in fibre (7 grams per one cup of canned pumpkin) and low in calories (26 calories for 100g), pumpkins can help you stay full longer and keep your digestion on track. The Heart & Stroke association recommends 21 to 38 grams of fibre a day, however most people don’t quite reach half that amount.
5. Improved sleep and mood
Don’t toss the seeds. Raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) are rich in tryptophan (yes, the same snooze-inducing amino acid that kicks in post-turkey dinner) and can help you get more Zs. This compound also supports serotonin, which not only helps you sleep better, but boosts your mood, too.
Whether you use the whole pumpkin, the pulp or the seeds, here are five must-try recipes, ranging from savoury to sweet.
Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup
This silky soup is a mix of traditional sweet and sour Thai flavours and has only 159 calories per serving. It’s guaranteed to be your go-to winter warm-up soup.
Pumpkin Spice Muffins
A muffin is a great grab-and-go treat. Skip the maple cream cheese spread to keep the calorie count (250 calories) low.
Arugula and Pepita Pesto
Add this pesto to salad, soups or over meat. Keeps in the freezer for up to six months.
Almond Pepita Butter
This fragrant nut butter with a mix of almond and pepita is a super-satisfying topper.
Pumpkin Pie Granola
A mix of pepitas, pecans, flaxseeds, puffed rice cereal and a medley of aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves gives this granola loads of flavour.
Gut-boosting foods can help improve digestion. Credits: Getty Images
Did you know that 70 to 80 percent of your body's immune cells live in your gut? Healthy foods that promote optimum digestion are important for your overall well-being. Here are five foods to add to your diet to boost your gut health.
Blended families are more common than ever, representing close to 13 percent of Canadian households. But you can say buh-bye to those Brady Bunch clichés—successfully combining two families into one unit can be complicated. Here's how three different couples made it work.
The team players: The Posner-Goldman family
Their blend: Melissa Posner has two children from a previous marriage, Adam, 6, and Ella, 4. Since she met Mitchell Goldman in September 2012, they have had their own daughter, Marlowe, 3, and moved in together. The older kids also spend two weekends each month with their biological father.
Their story: Melissa and Mitchell had instant chemistry. On their first date, they shared a sense of humour and felt like they had known each other forever. Still, they took their time incorporating Mitchell into Adam's and Ella's lives. "After about six months of dating, I invited Mitchell to meet the kids," says Melissa. "We would have hot chocolate or ice cream together. We chose a neutral place or a fun activity so there was no pressure or expectation on anyone's part."
These days, the kids call him Mitchy Daddy or Daddy. But it's been a big adjustment for the couple—especially for Mitchell, who went from zero kids to three. They see a blended-family specialist for help ensuring that the older children feel on par with the toddler and to foster equality when it comes to parenting and decision-making. "Counselling has really given us a chance to communicate and raise any issues that come up," says Melissa. Rebecca Murray, a marital and family therapist and director of the Montreal Therapy Centre, approves. "Seeing a therapist is a great way to get the tools and coping mechanisms parents need to blend successfully," she says.
Therapy was especially helpful for Mitchell. "As a new stepfather, it was difficult to judge whether the kids accepted me and to know what role I'd play in their lives," he says. As their relationship evolved, it became important to include him in decisions, rules and discipline. "This involved a new layer of change for us, and sometimes that process was forgotten, which made me feel like a bystander," he says. Now, Melissa consults with him on everything from the kids' gymnastics schedule to family vacations, a practice they discussed in therapy.
To make them feel special, the older children were each given roles to help feed or change baby Marlowe. They also get to have fun big-kid outings, such as bike rides with Mitchell to McDonald's on weekends. Plus, Mitchell makes spending time with Adam and Ella a priority, often giving them breakfast, driving them to school and attending their hockey games and swimming lessons. "It's something he wanted to do naturally," says Melissa. "He's an excellent father."
The takeaway: It's all about inclusion. "I like how Mitchell is involved in family decisions and not made to feel like an outsider," says Murray. "Treating all of the kids equally is important, too. Children are really in tune to fairness, justice and injustice. If the older kids perceive the biological child is being treated differently, they will act out."
The empty nesters: The Munn-Jurgens family
Their blend: Andrew Munn, 58, and his children, Elizabeth, 24, and Henley, 22, are now a family with Anna Jurgens, 54, and her kids, Sandy, 27, Robyn, 24, and Geoffrey, 22. The couple moved into Anna's house a year ago, and they are now building a three-bedroom home nearby where their grown children can gather for visits home and for holidays. Their story: Andrew and Anna lived on the same street for 12 years before they became romantically involved. They started as neighbours coping with divorce and raising children, then they became friends who enjoyed activities like biking together. Eventually, it became something more. By the time Anna and Andrew moved in together, after five years of dating, their children had already spread out across the country for school and work.
"I guess we avoided some potential issues that younger blended families can experience, as our kids were adults when we got together," says Anna. "But we had other issues with raising them as single parents as well."
Andrew's kids were just two and four when their parents separated in 1996, and they had to adjust to alternating weeks with their mom and dad. Anna's were 12, 10 and seven when she separated in 2002. Andrew and Anna both found single parenthood exhausting and lonely. They worried about how their divorces affected their children and wondered if they would find love and happiness again. When sparks finally flew between them, their children were happy.
"It's easier when kids are grown and out of the house," says Murray. "It could have less of an impact on the kids' day-to-day lives, and adult children are more likely to be understanding and accepting of their parents' new relationship."
Plus, there was no pressure for the older children to bond with each other. "We never expected them to act like brothers and sisters or be best friends," says Andrew. "You can't push grown children to have relationships; we had to accept that and know it was OK. Luckily for us, they all get along." The takeaway: Even if grown children are protective of their parents, feelings are less likely to be as intense or emotionally charged. "Just because you love your partner doesn't mean the whole family will get along," says Murray. "To be able to ask for respect is important, even if there isn't a relationship and closeness."
The communicators: The Gourley-Sims family
Their blend: Aliesha Gourley, 34, and her three kids, Broc, 13, Payge, 10, and Josh, 8, moved in with her partner, Jason Sims, 41, and his two kids, Jayden, 11, and Jaxson, 9. While Aliesha has a joint-custody arrangement with her ex, Jason sees his kids only twice a month.
Their story: Things moved fast for these old friends who reconnected on Facebook after splitting from their partners. After five months of dating, Aliesha and Jason introduced the kids to one another. They quickly realized how expensive it was to maintain two homes and decided it would make more financial sense if they lived together. In February 2014, less than a year after they began dating, they rented a house fit for their five kids. But chaos reigned early on, while the couple struggled to find common ground when it came to disciplining the children.
It takes time for the step-parent to grow into a more parental role, says Murray, and children may push back during the transition, saying things like, "I don't have to listen to you—you're not my mom!"
This is exactly what Aliesha and Jason encountered. "My kids know my tone—even the look on my face—and will behave as soon as they hear it," says Aliesha. "But Jason is a Disney dad; he doesn't discipline his kids because he wants them to enjoy their time together. They would get away with unacceptable behaviour, so I eventually had to pull him aside and tell him he had to discipline them."
After many arguments over how to treat their kids fairly and give them the appropriate attention, they realized they should be able to speak openly about parenting beliefs. "Now, we communicate about what strategy to use," says Aliesha. "We talk about what happened and we try to deal with our own kids—not each other's—because it's easier and it's what works for us." All of the children understand they will be treated equally.
"It sounds like Jason and Aliesha are doing well in terms of communication," says Murray. "Blending families and raising kids can put a lot of strain on a relationship, so it's important to be able to turn to your partner for support and to preserve the strength of the couple's relationship."
The takeaway: "It's always advisable to let the biological parent take the lead with parenting and disciplining their own kids," says Murray. "Kids are less likely to resent it coming from their own mom or dad, especially if the kids are older when the couple gets together."
Put your slow cooker to work and save time with these 20 easy and satisfying recipes.
Serve this saucy pulled pork as sandwiches: piled high on buns, with bowls of garnishes, such as pickled jalapeños, sour cream, shredded cheese and thinly shredded red cabbage (or better yet, red cabbage slaw), and let guests build their own sandwiches.
This recipe can easily be left to simmer away in a slow cooker for eight hours before adding the chicken. It yields a large quantity of sauce that freezes well if you're feeding a smaller group. Serve over hot steamed basmati rice.
This roast, inspired by a classic Belgian stew, is juicy and tender over mashed potatoes, and the leftovers make the ultimate hot sandwich. Cook the bacon and onion mixture the night before so it's ready to add to the slow cooker in the morning without a lot of fuss.
This beanless regional specialty is a point of pride in Cincinnati, where fierce loyalty divides the city over which restaurant serves the best version. Cooked low and slow, with the distinguishing flavours of cinnamon and cocoa, the meaty, saucy chili is served over spaghetti.
This mild, sweet curry has all the comforting flavours of a curry without too much spice, making it a great choice for the entire family. Serve over steamed rice or with warmed naan bread.
You won't believe how tasty and easy it is to make this classic dish in your slow cooker. A piping bag - or plastic bag - makes easy work of stuffing the manicotti. Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread for an easy family-style dinner.
A brisket needs to be cooked slowly, so using a slow cooker makes perfect sense. Ensure tender slices by cutting the brisket thinly across the grain.
Inspired by Portuguese caldo verde, this hearty, richly flavoured soup is a yummy way to use up an entire bunch of kale in one go. It freezes well, so leftovers make quick and easy lunches all week. The soup thickens as it stands; thin with water and adjust the seasonings as desired when you reheat it.
My mother, Shu-Lai Fong, makes famous pressure-cooked black bean spareribs. They're the inspiration for this recipe, which is just as delicious but uses a slow cooker. You'll find bite-size bone-in pork spareribs at most Asian grocery stores, or you can order them at your butcher's counter.
This hearty sauce is best served over a short pasta with lots of nooks and crannies it can tuck into and cling to. This ragu also makes a delicious lasagna filling when layered with sheets of fresh pasta and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Cost: $2.15/cup
There are few things more comforting than a bowl of rich, creamy seafood chowder. Sweet, licorice-like fennel naturally complements the seafood. Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread and a simple green salad for a complete meal.
Chorizo sausage and flavourful spices make this chili a real treat to come home to. Stirring in chopped herbs at the end adds a welcome touch of freshness.
Slow-cooked then quickly finished on the grill, sweet and sticky glazed ribs are guaranteed to impress your guests. Pork side ribs are also called St. Louis–style ribs, but back ribs are equally delicious.
Finally a flavourful risotto that doesn't need any stirring! Dried mushrooms work perfectly to create an earthy aroma, we've used dried porcinis here as they're readily available, but any dried mushroom will do. Hearty pot barley makes adds a healthful twist and doesn't become overly mushy - even after 8 hours.
Sweet honey and tender shallots mellow the typically strong flavour of lamb shoulder. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed greens for a complete meal.
We've swapped beef broth for chicken broth and onions for tender leeks but kept all the flavour in this lighter version of classic French onion soup. When you get home, just toast the baguette, broil the cheese and enjoy!
This veggie-loaded chili is so hearty that even meat lovers will ask for seconds. To freeze it, cook as directed, but don't add the mushrooms. Cook them separately and add to the chili after reheating it. Serve with crusty bread to soak up every bit of sauce.
Inspired by the traditional Mexican tacos served with spicy thin pork slices and pineapple, this slow cooker version features pork shoulder broken into tender bite size chunks. If you don't want to serve these as tacos, try serving the pork on top of steamed white rice instead.
This all-in-one meal is a roast version of classic beef and barley soup. The barley thickens the cooking liquid to make a delicious gravy.
Using stewing beef instead of ground meat adds delicious bulk to this otherwise classic chili. Serve as is or use it as a topping for baked potatoes.