Pumpkin, this Season’s Superfood

By Lori Meszaros, ASU Nutrition Communication Student


Pumpkins have always been known for their amazing ability to withstand carving and of course to make a pie, but now pumpkin is popping up everywhere. From Starbucks’ world famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, to pumpkin bread, snacks and even beer.


It’s fall and that means pumpkin season.


Pumpkins are taking center stage in the produce section of your local grocery store and farmer’s markets. From small and ornamental to the giant carving, pumpkins are everywhere! And that’s a good thing because this fruit is actually a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition.


Nutritional benefits of Pumpkin

  • Loaded with Vitamin A, one cup of pumpkin provides the body with over 200% of your RDA, which is needed to maintain healthy skin and eyes, boost your immune system, and help protect you during cold and flu season.
  • Pumpkin is a rich source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles, and research supports the idea that pumpkin may play a role in cancer prevention.
  • Pumpkins are high in Vitamins C and E
  • Good source of fiber with more Potassium than a banana which is good for your heart. Fiber has been shown to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol, and Potassium plays a crucial role in heart health.
  • Pumpkins are a good source of complex carbohydrates, providing the body with an excellent source of energy. Helps regulate blood sugar due to low glycemic load which is important to anyone with diabetes.
  • Research supports Pumpkin can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory substances and has been shown to benefit the symptoms of bronchial asthma (Pitchford, 2002 & Yadav et al. 2010).
  • 1 cup of pumpkin has only 49 calories and has no fat or cholesterol.


Adding pumpkin to your diet is easy and doesn’t just have to be limited to desserts and snacks. Try substituting your normal roasted vegetables with some roasted pumpkin. I love to add roasted pumpkin to my salads.

This Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad is one that I made for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m usually responsible for making the pumpkin pies, but last year I wanted to mix things up a bit. My guests loved the twist and were pleasantly surprised by the pumpkin making an appearance before dessert.

Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad



2 cups Butternut pumpkin/squash

2 cups Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups torn spinach

1 small red onion

1 tsp sea salt or rock salt

1 tsp chili powder (optional)


2” piece ginger, peeled

1 garlic clove

1-2 small red chilies, deseeded if mild or leave in seeds for hot

1 tbsp. veggie stock concentrate or 1 bouillon cube crushed

⅓ cup water



2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

4-5 tbsp. cold pressed olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp agave nectar or honey




  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Start by preparing the marinade. Put all ingredients in a NutriBullet or high-speed blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Cut pumpkin into bite size pieces, add to a mixing bowl with marinade and toss to coat.
  • Place coated pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and bake until a fork inserts easily, approximately 10-15 minutes. Once cooked, remove and set aside to cool.
  • To make the dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until emulsified, set aside.
  • Add cooked pumpkin, chickpeas, quinoa, torn spinach and red onion a bowl, then toss with dressing.


The salad is best served at room temperature.



This salad is also a great source of plant protein. Quinoa is the only grain, or seed depending on how you see it, that contains all 9 essential amino acids that are needed to make up a complete protein. In addition, quinoa is a good source of unsaturated fat that contains more calcium than milk, along with being a very good source of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E (Pitchford, 2002).


For more pumpkin recipes go to Fill Your Plate.





  • Pitchford, P. Healing with whole foods, 3rd 2002. North Atlantic Books. Berkley, CA.




  • Yadav, M. et al. Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review. Nutr Res Rev, 2010; 23:184-190.



About Lori 

Lori’s passion for food began when she was a little girl. Growing up on a small farm in Goodyear, AZ, she would follow her grandpa around the garden and watch her grandma in the kitchen. Lori’s curiosity and love for gardening and cooking led her down the path to pursue her passions. After studying Nutritional Medicine in Australia, and now studying Nutrition Communication at ASU, Lori plans to continue her studies to receive her Masters in Nutrition, taking her knowledge into the classroom to educate young minds about the importance of their food choices. Lori has strong beliefs that the food choices you make directly impact your health and eating local, fresh produce is the best prescription to better your health. Lori dedicates most of her free time to creating all of her favorite dishes with healthy, whole food ingredients in hopes to encourage future generations to live healthy, active lifestyles one meal at a time.






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Soda: Our Sugary Enemy

By Michael Russell, recent Arizona State University Nutrition Communication Student

We, as Americans, consume up 44 gallons of soda a year, so there is no denying we have a love affair with soda.  The only issue is that it is linked to several health risks including obesity, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.  It is an addiction that rivals alcohol, nicotine, and drugs, so breaking the habit can be just as hard as those mentioned.  But with determination and hard work the rewards from not drinking soda can be well worth it.


Let us take a look at some of the reasons why soda is just not good for us:


  • It contributes nothing nutritional to our bodies. Soda is jam packed with sugar and calories which do nothing but harm our body from within.  It also has no vitamins or minerals that are useful to our bodies.  It truly does nothing but rot us from within.
  • It contributes to obesity and diabetes. As I mentioned earlier some of the health risks linked to soda are that it leads to a risk of obesity and diabetes.  Soda is made with high fructose corn syrup, which is linked to obesity and has high amounts of sugar which raise our blood sugar levels and puts at risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • It damages your teeth. The sugar in soda will coat your teeth, and combined with the bacteria in your mouth, it creates an acid that destroys your teeth.  Soda also has carbolic acid through carbonation which will further destroy your teeth.
  • Weaker bones. Soda also contains phosphorous and caffeine which have been linked to osteoporosis.  Some people choose soda over other beverages such as milk which deprives the bones of the needed calcium to make them stronger.
  • Harm to major organs. Your kidneys are at high risk if you consume a lot of soda as it has been linked to chronic kidney disease.  Your heart is in danger as well, as soda is also linked to metabolic syndrome which is a group of symptoms that add up to increased heart risk.  Finally, your liver is in play here as well with the risk of developing into fatty liver which is a chronic liver disease.
  • Diet Soda is just as bad if not worse. Sorry, soda lovers choosing diet soda over regular soda is not a good choice.  It combines all the reasons why one shouldn’t drink regular soda with the added health risks brought to you with the addition of artificial sweeteners.  Artificial sweeteners confuse the body when it comes to sugar intake because it triggers the production of insulin which sends the body into fat storage mode which can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.  The artificial sweetener aspartame has been linked to headaches and migraines.


Natural Alternatives to Soda:


  • Water may be the best drink to replace soda as it is a free alternative and has no calories which mean no health risks.  The health benefits of water are plentiful including effects on energy levels, brain function, prevent and treat headaches, relieve constipation, treat kidney stones, and weight loss.
  • Fruit Juice and Seltzer. Always start with 100% fruit juice but try not to drink it straight as it contains a lot of sugar.  A great way to counteract this is to add seltzer water to fruit juice.  Adding a splash of fruit juice to seltzer water is a great way to get the sweet you’re used to from soda as well as the fizzy effect from it as well.
  • Milk is a great start to your morning giving your bones the calcium they need to become strong and help support your muscles.  Milk can also be a great way to finish your day as a sweet treat at night.
  • Tea is a great way to add antioxidants to your diet.  No matter if you drink black, green or herbal.  You can drink it hot with some honey and lemon or cold with a splash of your favorite fruit juice for an added boost of flavor and sweetness.
  • Sugar-free powdered mixes. A great way to make plain water taste better and a healthier choice than regular or diet soda.


After looking into the health effects of soda I came across a very interesting article that talked about the soda alternative to soda.  Soda companies are reformulating soda recipes to introduce organic ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, low amounts of sugar and no artificial color and sweeteners.  Some of those companies are:

  • DRY soda: Headlined by Top Chef winner Richard Blais, this soda has only four all natural ingredients and boasts low calorie and less sugar then its sugary counterpart.
  • Blue Sky: Blue sky soda company has been making natural ingredient sodas since 1980.  They have been using stevia to sweeten their drinks and have been avoiding preservatives and artificial colors.
  • Zevia: Another soda company that uses stevia to sweeten their drinks, which if you know what stevia is, it is 100x sweeter than regular sugar without the costly effects on blood sugar levels.
  • 12 NtM: This chef-inspired bubbly beverage has only 60 calories and 13 grams of sugar.  It is a combination of citrus, ginger, cardamom, herbs, spices and a blend of three teas.
  • Steaz: The folks over at Steaz combined green tea and soda and the results are profound.  It is made from organic, fair trade certified green tea and is sweetened with stevia.  It has zero calories but 100% flavor.
  • Fever Tree: This UK-based company made this beverage pair nicely with cocktails but this drink is great on its own.  It has only 6 ingredients and 17 grams of sugar.  It is made from a combination of three green gingers found in Ecuador and is a natural alternative to ginger ale.
  • Veri Soda: This 6 ingredient, organic, and chemical free beverage is sweetened with a small dose of organic cane sugar and stevia.  Veri soda has produced a cola flavored beverage that may just quench your desire for the sweet and unhealthy colas we have all come to know.





  1. 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda. (2016). com. Retrieved 9 April 2016, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20739512,00.html.
  2. 7 Sodas That Aren’t Terrible For You. (2014). Prevention. Retrieved 9 April 2016, from http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/7-healthier-soda-alternatives/veri-soda.
  3. Diet Sodas Must Be Taxed As They Are Fuelling Obesity, According To Experts. (2015). Food World News. Retrieved 9 April 2016, from http://www.foodworldnews.com/articles/43765/20151014/diet-sodas-must-be-taxed-fuelling-obesity-according-to-experts.htm.
  4. Joe Leech, D. (2015). 7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water. Authority Nutrition. Retrieved 9 April 2016, from https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/.
  5. Say No to Soda, Yes to Healthy Drinks. (2016). com. Retrieved 9 April 2016, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/say-no-to-soda.aspx.





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What to Consume When the Flu Comes On

By Katrina Aceret, an ASU Nutrition Communication Student

Flu season is upon us. Hopefully, you won’t catch the flu this season.  But, if you do, the following are the top 3 things to consume.

Young girl sick with mom getting ready to test her temperature with thermometer

Mom’s chicken soup is the right thing to serve

Chicken soup has been labelled the “old wives’ tale” and has been used to symbolize all home remedies. In 2000, a study was done by Dr. Stephen Rennard using blood samples from volunteers that consume chicken soup. It was found that chicken soup inhibits neutrophils which are white blood cells that defend infection. Also when chicken soup is sipped, it may stimulate nasal clearance and may improve upper respiratory tract symptoms (Rennard, 2000).


Hot tea makes us all feel better

Green and black tea are rich in antioxidants. Tea will help loosen secretions in the chest and sinuses, making them easier to expel and ultimately clearing up congestion (O’Connor, 2009). According to the British Journal of Nutrition consuming green tea improved mood and lowered blood pressure when one was sick. Hot tea is great with lemon and honey. Include a lemon in your tea, lemon contains vitamin C which helps fight again the colds and flu.


Let’s add a little honey to that

Honey has been found to soothe a cough. Honey is known to have polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants. Although there was has been no studies for adults, there has been increasing evidence where a single dose of honey might reduce mucus secretion and actually reduce a cough in children. Adults would need a higher dose and increased frequency. For adults, the best recommendation would be hot tea and honey to soothe a cough.


While Fill Your Plate doesn’t feature recipes specifically geared to improving the flu or a cold, we have lots of home-cooked recipes including Chicken and Wild Rice Soup that will warm the heart and start making us feel better fast.





Rennard, B. O., Ertl,R.F., Gossman, G.L., Robbins R.A., Rennard S, I. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro (2000, October) Chest Journal, 118 (4), 1150-1157

O’Connor, A. The claim: hot liquids can ease symptoms of a cold or flu (2009) The New York Times.

Steinmann, J., Buer, J., Pietschmann, T., & Steinmann, E. (2013). Anti‐infective properties of epigallocatechin‐3‐gallate (EGCG), a component of green tea. British journal of pharmacology168(5), 1059-1073.

Goldman, R.D., Honey for treatment of cough in children (2014) Canadian Family Physician, 60(12) 1107-1110

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Top 10 Pumpkin Recipes

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

Can you tell it’s almost fall? The mornings are cooler and evenings cool off quicker, and the sun is rising later and setting earlier. Even though the distinction between seasons can be a little vague here in Arizona, it is still fun to celebrate.


Photo via Wikipedia 

Pumpkins come into season in Arizona during the month of September. And although you might just think of pumpkins as being something to carve, you can turn them into tasty treats too! So get creative with pumpkin this fall season, and see what you can come up with. To start you out, here is a list of the yummiest pumpkin recipes I could find on Fill Your Plate and other places!

  1. Grandma Gertie’s Pumpkin Pie
  2. Pumpkin Pancakes
  3. Pumpkin Bars with Icing
  4. Pumpkin Butter
  5. Pumpkin Cake Cookies
  6. Pumpkin Cheesecake
  7. Stuffed Pumpkin
  8. Pumpkin Roll
  9. Pumpkin Milkshake
  10. Tiffany’s Pumpkin Pie Cake

Get ready to be the best cook at your fall get together. After you’ve tried these recipes, make sure to post pictures of them using the hashtag: #FillYourPlate. Also, visit fillyourplate.org for more amazing recipes to serve to your holiday guests. And, “Like” us on Facebook!

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To Coffee Or Not To Coffee: Why you Should Postpone your cup of Joe in the Mornings

By Jacob Gerdes, a recent Arizona State Nutrition Communications Student

Each morning I used to wake up in a fog, stumbling around my room like a zombie, wishing to return to the security and warmth of my bed. But let’s face it, the busy day must begin. Those who know me will tell you I am not a morning person and I am a serious coffee drinker.


I used to look forward to the aroma of a hot cup of Java wafting through the air in the mornings. It’s somewhat poetic but if I am, to be honest, it was once more of a necessity to get moving.  It wasn’t until about a year ago that I curiously questioned my reliance on caffeine to kick-start my morning and soon discovered why I should hold off on drinking that first cup of coffee.


A Review of the Past

Think back to a time when you might not have needed coffee to get ready for the day. Hard to remember? I know it is for me but after looking into why I should hold off on that first cup until later I decided to make a switch and here are the reasons behind that.


Your body has a hormone for everything. These hormones control our body’s 24-hour internal clock that lets us know when to sleep and when to wake up. In the mornings, right when you wake up, your body must transition from a state of rest to a more functioning state allowing us to begin our days. The hormone commonly associated with stress, cortisol, is released preparing your body to wake up and is continues being released after getting out of bed. Cortisol wakes you up.


In a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers aimed to find a link between caffeine and it affects on cortisol levels in the body. What was discovered was that, while researchers had already known caffeine helps spike cortisol levels, just as your body becomes tolerant to caffeine, your body also becomes tolerant to cortisol induced by caffeine, making cortisol less effective and leaving you groggy in the mornings.


Basically, if you replace your body’s natural ability to wake up in the morning with caffeine, once you have a high tolerance for caffeine, your body’s natural ability to utilize the “wake-up” hormone is hindered.


Coffee has its merits. Should you stop drinking coffee? Definitely not. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, plain black coffee serves as a great source of antioxidants. What you should do is postpone that first cup until the late morning or early afternoon for that surge of energy.


You might think I am crazy to suggest waiting to drink your first cup but from personal experience, mornings are much easier if you allow your body to do what it needs to do. Pick a week and try it out. Let your body get back to normal while still being able to enjoy your favorite pick-me-up drink. Just enjoy it a little later in the day!





  1. Lovallo WR, et al. Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels. 2008.

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257922/


  1. Marcason, W. Benefits of Java. 2014

URL: http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/preventing-illness/benefits-of-java





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