Healthy fall favorites

The beginning of November marks the middle of the fall season. On your way to meal equiv at the Library Café, there’s only one beverage on your mind: that pumpkin spice latte. Forget the warm sweaters, brisk weather and colorful leaves. The best part of autumn is most definitely pumpkin-flavored everything. What many people do not know is this winter squash is replete with a variety of health benefits to keep you healthy in the cold months.

• A single cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy eyesight.

• Pumpkin seeds are good for your heart. They contain phytosterols that have been shown to reduce LDL, a bad cholesterol. In addition, pumpkin seed oil contains phytoestrogens that increase HDL, or good cholesterol, and also decreases symptoms in postmenstrual women, including hot flashes, joint pain and headaches.

• Pumpkin seeds are rich in several essential minerals. Approximately half of an individual’s recommended daily intake of magnesium is contained in only a quarter cup. Magnesium is required for the synthesis of RNA and DNA, proper tooth and bone formation and healthy bowel function. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, which is necessary for proper cell growth and division, sleep, mood, immunity and male sexual function. Pumpkin contains potassium as well, which restores the body’s supply of electrolytes after a particularly exhausting workout.

• Pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan that is converted into serotonin, which is in turn converted into melatonin. Melatonin + is a hormone that helps regulate sleeping and waking patterns. Insomniacs often lack sufficient amounts of melatonin.

• Pumpkins can help prevent cancer. They contain the compound beta-carotene, an antioxidant. Antioxidants that are procured through diet have been shown to protect the immune system by preventing the oxidation of other molecules. These antioxidants also potentially prevent skin wrinkles.

The health benefits of pumpkins are clearly numerous, but simply taking a bite out of a pumpkin is not feasible. There are many easy pumpkin recipes that can provide you with this squash’s plentiful vitamins and nutrients, while also giving you a delightful meal. Combining butter, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with pumpkin seeds and roasting them in the oven makes a terrific snack. Adding pumpkin puree to your pancake batter will start your morning off in the right direction. Just add pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice to your standard cream cheese for a tasty spread. A close second to the famous pumpkin spice latte is a pumpkin smoothie, which can be prepared by adding pumpkin puree to vanilla yogurt, along with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Treat yourself right this fall and get into the spirit of the season by helping yourself to some delicious and nutritious pumpkin-flavored everything.