It is finally beginning to feel like fall; the weather is cooling down and the days are getting much shorter.  That can only mean one thing: it is pumpkin season!  You cannot go a day without being surrounded by pumpkin inspired goods from lattes to yogurt, oatmeal and granola, cookies and other treats. But do you actually know the amazing health benefits of pumpkin? Here are 5 reasons to love your PSL (pumpkin spice latte) just a little bit more!

1. Pumpkins are great for keeping your eyes healthy! Pumpkin contains a great amount of Vitamin A, which aids in vision. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of Vitamin A for additional eye protection.

2. Pumpkins are very rich in fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer. It has been shown that people who consume a diet high in fiber weigh less because they eat less. How simple!

3. Pumpkin seeds are rich in compounds that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. Baked pumpkin seeds also taste great, with a little cinnamon spice, yum!

4. Pumpkins contain high amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. Bring on the jack-o-lanterns!

5. Throw away all your sugary post workout energy bars! It turns out, a cup of cooked pumpkin has ton of the refueling nutrient potassium. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout, which is important for muscle recovery.

Now that you are armed with the facts, check out these 2 delicious pumpkin-inspired recipes!

WHOLE WHEAT PUMPKIN BREAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

 

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt, honey, and butter. Add whole-wheat flour, walnuts, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, and salt to yogurt mixture; stir well. Add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic. Add enough flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. (Press fingers into dough. If indentation stays, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; divide in half. Shape each half into a 7-inch round loaf. Place loaves diagonally 3 inches apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover; let rise 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°. Brush egg white over loaves, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons each pumpkin and sesame seeds. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are browned on bottom. Remove from pan, and cool on wire racks.

(based on a recipe from Health.com)

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

Combine pumpkin and next 6 ingredients (pumpkin through egg white); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon the batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and brown sugar; sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

(based on a recipe from cookinglite.com)

More Reasons & Recipes to Love Pumpkin Season!

By Alex Curtis