It may not always be the perfect fall temperature here in Texas, but there is more than one way to know the season has arrived; Fall starts when the pumpkin-flavored craze begins. The grocery store shelves begin to fill with pumpkin flavored cookies, muffins, coffees, pastries, doughnuts, ice cream, even marshmallows and beer.
Our favorite restaurants start offering pumpkin flavored items. People of all ages are crazy for this flavor! Unfortunately, most of the time there is no real pumpkin in pumpkin flavored foods, and they can be heavily laden with calories, saturated fat and sugar.
THE PUMPKIN SPICE SCARE
Pumpkin itself is usually not an ingredient in pumpkin-flavored foods; it’s a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves that taste similar to the spices used in pumpkin pie. Many pumpkin flavored products are flavored with “pumpkin-flavored syrup” which is basically pure cane sugar, preservatives, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Popular drinks made with this syrup often contain hundreds of calories, excess saturated fat and sugar and absolutely no pumpkin.
Many pumpkin flavored baked goods such as doughnuts and muffins have an extensive ingredient list—with pureed pumpkin being a very small proportion of the ingredients, and will also be overloaded in calories, saturated fat and sugar.
FIVE BENEFITS OF PUMPKIN
Canned, pureed pumpkin is actually very healthy. It can be added to almost anything—oatmeal, muffins, pancakes, smoothies, soups, and even ravioli and creamy pasta dishes. Pumpkin has quite a few health benefits:
- Pumpkin may keep eyesight sharp by providing over 200 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A intake.
- One cup of pumpkin puree has 50 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber which helps you feel full and eat less.
- Pumpkins are full of the antioxidant beta-carotene which may help fight off certain cancers.
- The same power of beta-carotene can help protect the integrity of the skin.
- Potassium helps restore electrolyte balance after a heavy workout, and pumpkin has over 550 milligrams of potassium per cup which is more than a banana.
If you’re craving your favorite pumpkin spice beverage, avoid the excess calories and sugar and try a pumpkin smoothie instead. Add half a cup of pumpkin puree, half of a ripe banana, one cup of milk, one teaspoon of honey, half a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, a fourth a teaspoon of vanilla extract and one cup of ice into a blender. Enjoy your guilt-free pumpkin treat anytime!