pumpkin_mediumthumbFall has arrived and so have the pumpkins – in a variety of ways. Before you reach for your next pumpkin spice latte (I’ll be sharing some healthier options, so keep reading!), realize that pumpkins have many more benefits than simply flavoring a specialty drink or decorating your front porch.

Along with making tasty dishes, pumpkins are a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C, folic acid, iron and magnesium. Just make sure that when you’re buying canned pumpkin you’re not buying the pie mix, which typically contains added sugars and syrups. Canned pumpkin should just contain pumpkin and no other ingredients.

Uncut pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months. In addition, pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin can be used as a replacement for butter or oil in baking recipes. Here are a few other ways pumpkin can boost your health:

  • Pumpkins have about 7 grams of fiber per one cup serving and only 80 calories! Fiber is necessary for keeping your digestive system moving, lowers cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar levels.
  • You know how they say carrots are good for the eyes? Well, pumpkin is too! The vitamin A and beta-carotene in pumpkin supports vision as well as the immune system. Just ¼ cup of pumpkin contains about 170% of your daily vitamin A needs.
  • Beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A in the body, but it can also be used as an antioxidant to help protect cells from free radical damage that could cause cancer.
  • Potassium helps with blood pressure by balancing out the sodium in the body. One cup contains about 564 mg compared to a banana that has 422 mg. If you’ve had high blood pressure readings recently, try adding some pumpkin to your diet along with cutting your sodium intake.

There are more than a few ways to harvest the many healthful qualities of pumpkin. Try out one of my healthier pumpkin recipes here!