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How to Cook with Pumpkin

When fall rolls around, I can’t seem to steer my mind away from all-things pumpkin. Just this week I was busy at work in the kitchen, dreaming up new pumpkin recipes to share with family and friends. While most assume that pumpkin is high in calories because it’s most often found in pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds and fruit are actually incredibly healthy and often overlooked as an important source of vitamins and minerals. Here we take a look at the abundance of health benefits this fall fruit provides, as well as methods for preparing it with five delicious and healthy recipes. 

Health benefits: Both pumpkin seeds and fruit are two super foods that you don’t want to miss out on this fall. Pumpkins are loaded with good-for-for you vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, which promote healthy, glowing skin among other important health benefits. They’re also high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and lutein, which can improve eye health. In addition, pumpkins contain plenty of beta carotene, which have anti-inflammatory properties; and antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body and help prevent cancer.

Other surprising health benefits? Pumpkins can promote better bone density and digestion and even lower cholesterol. They’ve also been found to help prevent prostate cancer, kidney stones and even depression. 
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How to Cook With Figs

Believe it or not, I tried my very first fig just this year. While I didn’t know what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle sweet flavor and delicate texture. Since discovering I enjoy this fruit so much, I’ve since realized how incredibly nutritious and versatile they are. For instance, figs can be enjoyed fresh or dried, roasted or baked, savory or sweet. Plus, a 1-cup serving contains nearly 15 grams of fiber! I think I’ve found a new favorite fruit to cycle into my daily snack line-up. 

Health benefits: Figs are extremely healthy for you, containing a variety of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, fiber, flavonoids, potassium, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin K, magnesium and copper. Figs are also considered a healthy low-calorie, low-fat food with the ability to boost mood and improve both digestive and cardiovascular health. Additionally, they contain antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body to combat and prevent certain types of cancer, and have also been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Nutrition statistics: 1 cup dried figs contains approximately 371 calories, 1 gram fat, 15 mg sodium, 95 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fiber, 71 grams sugar, 5 grams protein.

Cooking methods: When choosing a fig, make sure it’s soft but not mushy. It should smell slightly sweet and never sour. Once washed and removed of the stem, you can eat the entire fig as is. Perhaps the most popular way to eat figs besides dried is fresh in salads, over yogurt or on toast with honey.
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How to Cook with Tofu

Tofu used to scare me, but now we’re quite comfortable with each other. I pick up a package once a month or so to add as a nice meat-free protein source to my favorite recipes. I find it works best in dishes with very high flavor profiles, such as sweet and spicy pad thai, since tofu lacks much taste on its own but absorbs seasonings well.

Though tofu can be tricky to master at first, once you get the hang of it it can prove quite useful as an alternative and cost-friendly meat alternative in your diet.

Health benefits: Tofu is a bean curd that’s made by adding mineral salt, such as calcium sulfate, and water to a soybean “mash.” The salt makes the protein and fiber in the soy turn thick and smooth, and it’s then pressed in to a block for packaging. Tofu is a great and cheap source of calcium and vitamin E and is very rich in protein. One half-cup serving contains nearly 10 grams.

Tofu also boasts such benefits as lowering bad cholesterol, alleviating symptoms of menopause, and even lowering risk of cancer when eaten regularly. 
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How to Cook with Grapes

Grapes have always been one of my very favorite fruits. With each bite their crisp skin gives way to a sweet, soft center that I simply can’t resist. Once I start eating a bowl, I’m hard pressed not to finish. Though I enjoy grapes very much as is, I’ve also loved plucking them from the vine and freezing them for a light and delicious after-dinner snack.

Health benefits: Grapes are considered a low glycemic index food, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar upon consumption. They’re also a great source of manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. Grapes also contain resveratrol, which is a polyphenol that helps improve brain health, and are also widely known for their ability to aid in digestion. In fact, they are considered a laxative food as they help relieve cramping and constipation.

In addition, purple grapes have even been found to help prevent breast cancer and even macular degeneration according to recent research studies. And among many other health benefits, grapes contain powerful antioxidant-containing flavonoids that fight free radicals in the body and even prevent cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer.

Nutritional statistics: One cup of red or green grapes contains approximately 104 calories, 0 grams fat, 3 mg sodium, 27 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 23 grams sugar, and 1 gram protein.
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How to Cook with Apples

Fall is nearly upon us, at least here in the Midwest. With leaves falling and the weather cooling down, we have three things on our mind: fall baking, pumpkin lattes and apple picking.

With autumn in full bloom, the selection of apples is beginning to grow at our local grocery stores and we can’t help but get excited at the thought of all the delicious things we can make with this nutritious fruit.

Health benefits: Apples are loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, calcium and vitamin B-6.

They’re also a great food for healthy diets as they’re incredibly filling and high in fiber, which will keep you fuller longer than less water-dense foods.

Apples also contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which can help oxygen flow to the lungs. There have been countless studies surrounding apples and among the many benefits discovered, they’ve been found to help with asthma, protect our bone health, help prevent Alzheimer’s and even lower cholesterol.
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