OCTOBER is here and temperatures are beginning to drop. Fall is my favorite time of year…warm colors, the leaves begin to change, and all things pumpkin! During the month of October, I will be featuring a guilt-free pumpkin recipe each Friday. Before we begin exploring recipes with pumpkin, let’s take a look at the benefits from this nutrient dense fruit (yes pumpkins are a fruit not a vegetable!)

Excellent source of fiber – Pumpkin seeds have about 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce, and mashed pumpkin has only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber. Fiber helps keep us feeling full for longer, therefore keeping your appetite at bay.

Promotes eye health – A cup of cubed pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which promotes good vision. Vitamin A also helps form and maintains healthy skin, teeth, and bones. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids which also help support healthy eyes and better night vision. Carotenoids protect against cataracts and age related macular degeneration.

Helps lower blood pressure – Pumpkin see oil is full of phytoestrogens, which research shows are beneficial for preventing hypertension. Pumpkin also contains potassium and magnesium which both help regulate blood pressure.

Aids in better sleep and reduces stress – You may have heard of tryptophan before, which is found in turkey and often causing the afternoon nap after Thanksgiving lunch. Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan and help the body make serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter that helps you relax and unwind. Tryptophan has also been shown to help manage and reduce stress.

Helps after a hard workout – a cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the refueling nutrient, potassium, with 564 milligrams to banana’s 422 milligrams. The extra potassium found in pumpkins helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.

Boosts you immune system – one cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams of Vitamin C which is nearly 20% of the 60 milligrams recommended for women daily. Men should aim for 75 milligrams.

Builds healthy bones – Calcium and vitamin D are often the first nutrients linked to strong bones, the magnesium found in pumpkin transports calcium in the body, which makes it vital to bone health.

So before only using pumpkins for decoration this fall season, take advance of this nutrition powerhouse in your meals. Stay tuned for the first recipe coming this Friday!