Updated: Jul 23, 2019
'Tis the season for pumpkin flavored everything. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin beer...I've even seen pumpkin flavored cheese!
Pumpkins (in their natural form, not turned into a sticky sweet syrup) are actually incredibly healthy and nutritious. Let's look at 3 reasons you should be working them into your Fall meals:
1. Boosts Your Immune System
Pumpkins are high in a phytonutrient called beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A increases antibody production, which help fight off infection. Antibodies are protective proteins designed to detect foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, and kick the immune system into high gear. 
Vitamin A also protects the integrity of the gut lining. Your gut houses 70% of the cells that make up the immune system, so this is a critical step in keeping you healthy. 
I know you have a lot to get done this season and there's no time to get sick! Keep your immune system in tip top shape with adequate beta-carotene.
2. Healthy Joints
1 cup of cooked pumpkin has about 25% of your daily copper needs. Copper is a small trace mineral that plays a big role in keeping your joints limber and pain-free.
Adequate copper is needed to replace damaged connective tissue and to create new elastin & collagen. 
Copper also has antioxidant properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the joints.
Skip the copper bracelets, as the research on them is weak, and make yourself a bowl of comforting pumpkin soup instead.
3. Lose Inches
Pumpkin has great fiber content and is low in calories; two things that help with losing weight.
1 cup of canned pumpkin has 7 g of fiber, which is more than most whole grain cereals or breads. Women's daily fiber intake should be at least 25 g and men's should be at least 30 g each day.
Pumpkin contains both insoluble and soluble fiber. Both types keep you fuller longer so you're not looking for a snack an hour after eating. Insoluble fiber also helps keep you regular, while soluble fiber maintains normal cholesterol levels. 
How to Cook with Pumpkin
You have two choices here. You can either roast a whole pumpkin and let the glorious Fall aromas fill your house, or if you're short on time (like me) you can use canned (unsweetened) pumpkin.
Buy a small pumpkin labelled "sugar", "sweet", or "pie" pumpkin. You don't want the big jack-o-lantern style pumpkin.
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Chop the pumpkin in half, chop off the stem, and scoop out the seeds and stringy middle (save the seeds to roast later!). Lay the pumpkin halves face town on a baking tray lined with foil. Bake for about 1-1.5 hours, or until the middle is soft. Remove from the oven, cool until easy to handle, and scoop the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin. Blend this until smooth, and it's ready to be used in any dish!
Pumpkin Meal & Snack Ideas
Pumpkin pasta sauce
1. Harris, E. D., Rayton, J. K., Balthrop, J. E., DiSilvestro, R. A., & Garcia-de-Quevedo, M. (1980). Copper and the synthesis of elastin and collagen. Ciba Foundation Symposium,79, 163-182.
2. How to add more fiber to your diet. (2015, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
3. Ross, A. C., Chen, Q., & Ma, Y. (2011). Vitamin A and Retinoic Acid in the Regulation of B-Cell Development and Antibody Production. Vitamins and the Immune System Vitamins & Hormones,86, 103-126. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-386960-9.00005-8
4. Villamor, E., & Fawzi, W. W. (2005). Effects of Vitamin A Supplementation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 18(3), 446-464. doi:10.1128/cmr.18.3.446-464.2005