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Pumped about pumpkin

It’s all around you. Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins filled with cream cheese, pumpkin bagels, cookies, doughnuts, shakes, ice cream, butters and even pumpkin beer!

Companies are using this sweet, aromatic fall flavour to season just about anything they can.

So what’s the deal with all this pumpkin?

Not only is their size impressive, but pumpkins are nutritional powerhouses as well. These grand gourds are loaded with antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins. Most notably is their abundance of betacarotene which is known for its immune-boosting powers, is essential for eye health and has been linked to preventing heart disease.

And it’s not just the fresh pumpkin that packs a nutritional punch. Canned pumpkin is equally beneficial; one cup has seven grams of fiber, three grams of protein, only 80 calories, one gram of fat and over 50 per cent of the daily value of vitamin K.

But wait, did you hear the big pumpkin news this fall?

What we thought was pumpkin is sometimes actually squash! That’s right, many canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling brands use butternut squash or a mix of a few varieties instead of real pumpkin. They do this because squashes are a better texture and richer in sweetness and colour than actual pumpkin And since they come under the same family of veggie there is some leniency in terms of labelling. Squash spiced latte anyone?

While the real stuff is a superfood with many health benefits, the pumpkin spiced flavoured goodies and treats you’ve been sampling this fall have little or no actual pumpkin in them and are made with pumpkin flavoured syrup and loaded with sugar.

For example a Starbucks grande pumpkin spice latte with 2 per cent milk and whipped cream has 380 calories, 13 grams of fat, 220 mg of sodium, and a whopping 49 grams of sugar. Not to mention a grande will set you back about $4.

So what are you to do? You’re tempted by the rich warm spices of fall, the memories of grandma’s baking, tradition and childhood. What’s more comforting and nourishing?

There are healthy ways to enjoy these delicious autumn treats. With a few small tweaks and your own ingredients at home you can enjoy in the aromatic gourd goodness of pumpkin spice without the negative health impacts. Here are a couple healthy pumpkin recipes you might enjoy:

Homemade Pumpkin Spiced Latte (inspired by Mama Natural)

  • 1 shot of espresso or 4 oz. of very strong coffee
  • 3/4 cup of almond or coconut milk – heated
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of real maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice (Make your own by mixing 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice)
  • 1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • A sprinkle of coconut sugar for the top

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy.

Sugar Free Pumpkin Cookies (inspired by Detoxinista)

These little nuggets are sweetened only with fruit and have no added sugar.

  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 4 medjool dates pits removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the mashed banana, pumpkin puree and dates in a food processor or blender. Blend until the dates have mixed well with the purees. Add in the coconut flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda and vinegar, and blend again until until a thicker batter is formed. Gently fold in the shredded coconut, raisins, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Scoop about one heaping tbsp into hand and form into small ball. Flatten and press onto baking sheet. These cookies won’t spread while cooking. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350F, until the edges are golden and centers aren’t too soft. Let cool on a rack. These cookies stay soft and can be stored in fridge for up to a week.

Enjoy!

Over to you. What’s your favourite fall pumpkin flavoured food or drink? Please share in the comments. 

* This post was originally published in the Herald Community on October 29, 2013.

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