PHOENIX - We all love when the fall season unfolds, bringing crisp temperatures, holiday gatherings and comfort food.
But did you know one of the season's most ubiquitous foods is also a great addition to your diet?
Nutrition and fitness expert Tiffani Bachus says pumpkin is an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant associated with decreasing risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as improving vision. In addition, it’s a good source of blood pressure-reducing potassium and B-vitamins, which can increase energy levels and improve exercise recovery.
According to Bachus, 1 cup of mashed pumpkin has just 49 calories and 12 grams of carbs, and boasts 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and 0 grams of fat.
Even better? Almost all the parts of the pumpkin plant -- fruit, leaves, flowers and seeds -- are edible.
Check out two of Bachus' favorite pumpkin recipes, courtesy of urockgirl.com .
Black Bean Pumpkin Chili
Ready in 6-8 hours in slow cooker ~ Makes 6 servings (approximately 2 cups)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tbs. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. chili powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 (28 oz.) cans fire-roasted tomatoes (with juices)
4 cups (1/2-inch cubed) Raw Pumpkin
1 pound top round beef, cubed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1. Place vegetables in bottom of slow cooker. Add beef and spices and water. Cover slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Lower heat to LOW and cook 6-8 hours. (Alternately can cook on LOW for 8 hours).
2. Remove lid, stir and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Mini Pumpkin Pie
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated fat-free milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbs. cornstarch
Zest of 1 orange
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbs. agave, honey or brown sugar
Optional toppings: freshly whipped cream, vanilla frozen yogurt, crushed graham crackers
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with aluminum foil. Place 10 (8 oz.) ramekins on the baking sheet.
3. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Pour into ramekins about 3/4 full. Carefully place the baking sheet into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. The filling will rise as it cooks and fall after it comes out and cools.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve warm with a spoonful of freshly whipped cream or vanilla frozen yogurt and crushed graham crackers on top.
To learn more about Tiffani Bachus, 2009 Fitness America World Champion, Group Fitness Instructor, co-founder of U Rock Girl and founder of Total Balance Body, go to www.urockgirl.com and www.totalbalancedbody.com , or you can follow her on Twitter @tiffbachusfit.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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