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Three cheers for fall! Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!

‘Tis the season once again for all things pumpkin – the jolly orange fruits are available at farmers markets, fall-favourite “pick-your-own” farms have opened their gates, and Starbucks specialty drink sales are skyrocketing.

I’m pretty darn tootin’ excited about this new season. Although I’m a huge fan of summer, there’s something exceptionally lovely about that feeling you get when fall comes creeping in. I often find myself in complete awe as I’m biking to school, whizzing by the colourful trees and underneath the falling leaves – it feels like a scene straight from the movies! Nature is wonderful in every month, but it’s almost as if mother earth is putting on her last spectacular show, as a final reminder for us to seize the moment and get out of the house, before we go into winter hibernation mode.

With fall comes the infamous pumpkin spice latte, and it’s a sure way to get you feeling cozy and warm. A steaming cup of yummy-goodness in hand, and suddenly, even those grieving over summer’s passing seem to be welcoming the crisp air with open arms. From a nutritional perspective, pumpkin spice lattes are outrageous; the sugar content is overwhelming, despite the oh-so-delicious scent. Before downing the third PSL in a studying frenzy, consider this: one grande pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream and two per cent milk contains a whopping eight grams of saturated fats. That’s 40 per cent of your daily value, not to mention the 475 mL drink contains 49 grams of sugar and 380 calories.

Are you bummed out yet? If so, fear not, there are some good news! The pumpkins are incredibly versatile fruits. If the season isn’t complete without your favorite orange squash, then fuel your addiction with some healthier alternatives. Pumpkins are a health-nut’s dream: they’re loaded with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, and are a remarkably good source of beta-carotene. According to Dieticians of Canada, half-a-cup of canned pumpkins will supply your body with an exceptional dose of Vitamin A, ensuring proper functioning of your immune system, promoting healthy skin, as well as maintaining strong vision.

As the weather grows colder, our bodies often feel the lack of love and rebuttal by decreasing their efficiency of warding off illness. Pumpkins to the rescue! Nutrient-dense pumpkins are rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C, helping you steer clear from those winter sniffles and keeping you looking young and fresh!

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, some derivatives of Vitamin A are beneficial in treating certain skin disorders.  The findings that beta carotene has positive effects on skin health is once again confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014, where it was stated that antioxidant micronutrients, such as beta carotene, support long-term skin protection and contribute to skin appearance and well-being.

Dr. Laura Forbes, professor in the Applied Human Nutrition department at the University of Guelph, attests to the super-powers of the pumpkin. “Pumpkin is a great source of beta carotene. It has a smattering of other vitamins and minerals and contains fiber,” Forbes explained.

Instead of attempting to obtain all the pumpkin goodness through artificial flavoring, take the more natural route and whip up a pumpkin-inspired fall dish. Forbes suggested, “One of the easiest ways to get more pumpkin in your diet is to use the canned pumpkin you can get at the grocery store. Pumpkin adds moisture and nutrition to baked goods without adding fat or many calories.”

Pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, or roasted pumpkin are all excellent ways to incorporate our favourite fall fruit into our daily diets, and, this time, guilt-free. Dig in!

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References:

(1) Olson, James Allen. “Benefits and liabilities of vitamin A and carotenoids.” The Journal of nutrition 126.4 Suppl (1996): 1208S-12S.

(2) Stahl, Wilhelm, and Helmut Sies. “β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 96.5 (2012): 1179S-1184S.

(3) www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-A.aspx

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