ciderportraitBy: Nicole Arcilla

Not going to lie, fall isn’t my favorite season! I’ve not truly gotten on board with the “pumpkin craze.” However, I do recognize the health benefits of pumpkin and I’m not going to let that deter me from promoting its health benefits to you!

1. Vitamin A – lots of it.

Just like other orange-colored vegetables, pumpkin is abundant in Vitamin A, also known as carotenoids, the form of Vitamin A found in plants. Vitamin A has long been known for improving eye health and promoting good vision, but carotenoids can also be found in different forms and provide other benefits. Probably one of the most important types of carotenoids is beta-carotene. This type of carotenoid is an antioxidant, meaning it can fight against free radicals that play a role in the development of chronic diseases. Just one cup of cooked, unsalted pumpkin can provide over 200% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin A.

2. Fiber
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber, and pumpkin is no exception to this rule. A lot of people tend to forget that going to the bathroom regularly is also a part of good health. So in order to have a regular schedule going make sure you’re eating enough fiber, but one thing to remember: fiber can act like a sponge and soak up the water in your body and make it harder to pass through your lower intestines. To counteract these effects simply drink plenty of fluids, like water. Another bonus of fiber? It’ll prolong satiety. In other words, you’ll feel fuller for longer and you can stop daydreaming about your next meal even though you literally just ate five minutes ago (that’s not just me, right?).

pumpkinpie3. Low in calories. So stop counting them.
Pumpkin, along with other fruits and vegetables, are what we call “nutrient dense”. This means that not only are they low in calories, but they are packed with healthy nutrients. It’s almost the same idea as getting “more bang for your buck” – you get more, for much less. Now it also matters what else you’re adding to your pumpkin. If you’ve boiled, drained and added some herbs to your pumpkin – perfect! But if you’re eating pumpkin pie with a generous serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream coupled with a pumpkin spice latte…then maaaybe let’s have a one on one chat.

I know. That last sentence didn’t sound too comforting. You’re probably thinking “okay, so…what can I eat with pumpkin?! Those were the good ones!” Don’t despair. There’s plenty of other pumpkin dishes beyond desserts and what Starbucks offers. So come on. Put down that pumpkin spice latte and venture out. You can do it. I did a little research and found healthy pumpkin recipes for each meal – check them out and enjoy!

Breakfast: Pumpkin Almond Bread

Pancakes are usually one of the first thoughts that come to mind when we hear “breakfast”, but muffins and breads are great options too! I like to think of this one as a pancake on-the-go, minus the heavy butter and syrup.

Lunch: Pumpkin Soup

With temperatures slowly dipping down, who wouldn’t want some soup? This recipe calls for canned pumpkin puree which is available all year round, but since it’s in season – why not use real pumpkin? Learn how to make your own pumpkin puree.

Dinner: Pumpkin-Seed Pesto

People often overlook pumpkin seeds as a key ingredient in different dishes. Pumpkin seeds have their own nutrition benefits such as being a good source of zinc – a key nutrient in keeping a strong immune system. Pesto sauces typically use pine nuts, whereas this one calls for pumpkin seeds instead. Use it as a topping for whole wheat pasta, or even on chicken breast, lean beef, and other meats.

Drink/Dessert: Pumpkin Spice Dark Hot Chocolate

This is a fun twist on the traditional pumpkin spice latte! There’s so many other drinks out there, guys! Try out this recipe instead. What’s great is it doesn’t call for a heaping amount of sugar. Instead it uses milk alternatives and spices to keep up the flavor. So drink up and have it as a side to your main dessert, or have it as a dessert all on its own.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Collins

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