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Apples and pumpkins: Tips to pick, store and prepare

November 2013

by Brittany Cordeiro

The leaves are changing color and cooler temperatures are setting in. You’re probably getting ready to select fall’s tastiest fruits and vegetables for some holiday baking.apples and pumpkins

To help get you started, we chose two fall favorites from our list of cancer-fighting foods: apples and pumpkins. They’re both full of nutrients and, most importantly, a great source of fiber.

“A diet high in fiber can help reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes and cancer,” says Mary Ellen Phipps, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.

Apples also contain vitamin C and pumpkins contain beta-carotene. “Vitamin C and beta-carotene can help boost your immune system and keep your cells healthy,” Phipps says.  

To reap all the nutritious goodness of these foods, we asked Phipps and MD Anderson senior clinical dietitian, Stephanie Maxson, for advice on how to pick, store and prepare them.

Here are their tips.

Apples

Shopping tips: Choose apples free of blemishes and bruises. Their color should be rich and without tan or brown streaks. Pick apples with a smooth skin and no protruding marks. They should feel heavy and firm.

Storing tips: Store apples at room temperature or in the refrigerator. In the refrigerator, place apples in a plastic bag away from foods with a strong odor. Use apples within three weeks.apple pie

Preparing tips: The apple’s skin has the most fiber. So, try to leave it on. Baking apples with the skin on will soften them. You can bake or stew apples with vegetables like carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes.

Texture is as important as flavor when baking. Apples that keep their texture when cooking or baking include Cortland, Jonagold, Winesap, Granny Smith and Rome Beauty. You also can chop apples and add them to salads for sweetness and texture. 

For a quick dessert, core apples and stuff them with a mixture of raisins, cinnamon and pecans. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Other recipes to try: carrot apple cake and apple, pear nut and oatmeal crumble.

Pumpkins

Shopping tips: Pumpkins are a winter squash. Choose a pumpkin with a deep, solid orange color. Compare equal sized pumpkins and choose the heavier one to get a more edible flesh.

Pick pumpkins with a hard rind and no soft spots. You should be able to press your nail into the pumpkin’s skin without it puncturing. Ripe pumpkins also sound hollow.

Storing tips: Store pumpkins at room temperature or in a slightly cooler dry environment. Pumpkins can last two to three months. Refrigerating pumpkins can make them spoil faster. If you cut a pumpkin into pieces and wrap it tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for about two days. You also can freeze pumpkin in uncooked chunks or as cooked purée.pumpkin soup

Preparing tips: Enjoy pumpkins by roasting them in the oven with cinnamon, then pureeing them into a pie filling, soup or pasta sauce. You can prepare small pumpkins the same way you would squash and zucchini.

You also can cook a pumpkin’s seeds and eat them as a snack. Try these pumpkin recipes: spiced pumpkin dip served with apples and dark chocolate cranberry pumpkin muffins

A diet filled with a variety of plant foods, like fruits and vegetables, helps lower your risks for many cancers. So, enjoy apples and pumpkins and their cancer prevention perks this holiday season.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center