Pumpkin Spice: Fad or Fallacy?

by Sara Scinto

Would you want a watery pumpkin pie? A savory pumpkin spice latte? How about a stringy pumpkin bread? Yeah, I wouldn’t either. I adore pumpkin spice everything as much as the next person (pumpkin is actually my favorite food), but are pumpkin and spices actually in these products?

My mom and I enjoying real pumpkin whoopie pies

There has been an explosion of pumpkin spice products rolling out for fall in recent years and each season it starts sooner (apparently as soon as July in 2017). Fall flavors are creeping into summer because the consumer demand is there and food companies want in on the profits that have soared in the last 5 years. Tiffany Hsu from The New York Times article purports pumpkin spice sales “…surged 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, then 12 percent the next year, then 10 percent in 2015 and in 2016”.

Unfortunately, not all pumpkin spice products have either pumpkin or spice blends in them. Sugar is first on the ingredient list of both Pumpkin Spice Oreos® and Kraft’s Jet-Puffed® Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows; neither contain actual pumpkin NOR spices, unless they are hidden in the natural or artificial flavorings. However they do contain artificial colors to mimic that beautiful pumpkin orange. According to Wikipedia, pumpkin pie spice is usually “a blend of ground cinnamonnutmeggingercloves, and sometimes allspice”, but commercial pumpkin spice products typically include chemical compounds to simulate the taste of pumpkin pie. You are not only getting fooled by the absence of real pumpkin and spices, but you are not able to reap any of the nutritional benefits of these foods. Pumpkin is a rich source of carotenoids, vitamin C, and fiber; nutmeg contains multiple B vitamins; cinnamon is full of antioxidants; and ginger provides the essential minerals magnesium and copper. If you’d like to create your own pumpkin pie spice, here are the proportions recommended by Julie R. Thomson at the Huffington Post:

Natural pumpkin pie spice blend

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves

 

 

 

Seemingly healthier stores like Trader Joe’s are no exception to the pumpkin spice fallacy. Their Pumpkin Shaped Frosted Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins don’t include an ounce of pumpkin (they are just pumpkin shaped). And although Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Baking Mix do contain pumpkin and “spices” on their respective ingredient lists, sugar comes first. This is something to be cognizant of if your body doesn’t handle sugar well.

Pumpkin may not be as straightforward as it seems either. As it turns out, the canned pumpkin that is so heavily used in pumpkin pies and other fall goodies often contains one or more types of winter squash! For example, the company Libby’s uses a Dickinson pumpkin, which is more closely related to a butternut squash than a pumpkin you would find in your typical patch. Dickinson pumpkins and butternut squash are both part of the Cucurbita moschata species, while a traditional jack-o’-lantern pumpkin belongs to the Cucurbita pepo species.

Before you start a false advertising class lawsuit, a couple things should be clarified. Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins actually taste pretty bad and would make a terrible pumpkin pie. They’re stringy, watery, and not that sweet. This is why canned pumpkin companies use a variety of winter squashes that are more vibrant in color, “sweeter, fleshier and creamier” than a classic carving pumpkin. It just tastes and looks better. And these companies aren’t technically breaking any rules, since the FDA has a quite lenient definition of pumpkin, which includes any “firm-shelled, golden-fleshed, sweet squash”.

The reason pumpkin spice mania has taken America by storm is that sugary pumpkin spice products taste good! Food companies know this and give consumers what they want, which may not always be the best for the health of our bodies or our food system. But do not fear: we can still enjoy all the delicious pumpkin spice goodness by being more aware of ingredients and making our own treats.

Here are some of my all-time favorite recipes that have real pumpkin and/or spice blends in them:

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread (V, GF)

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup (can substitute stevia for sugar or reduce sugar)

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Overnight, Slow Cooker, Pumpkin Pie Steel-Cut Oatmeal (GF, can be made V)

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Curry (GF)

Paleo Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Dream Cake (for very special occasions)

Pumpkin Dream Cake

Lastly, a pro tip for making your own pumpkin pancakes: substitute pumpkin puree for some liquid (whether oil or water) and shake some pumpkin pie spice into the batter. Play around with how much you substitute until it reaches a consistency that you like-there’s no wrong way to do it! The end product will be a dense and delicious pancake that pairs wonderfully with some maple syrup and/or berry topping.

Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the fall, there is a 100% chance she has made some kind of pumpkin food within the last week. You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.

 

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Fueling your Performance with Fall Flavors

by Megan Maisano

Gearing up for this year’s Turkey Trot? This month Megan Maisano shares seasonal foods and recipes that will fuel your best performance.

Photo: Megan Maisano

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, it’s not the winter holiday yet, but the season runners have patiently waited for over the last ten months: Fall.

After the heat and humidity of its summer, New England graces us with a pocket of blissful conditions before winter forces us back into the gym. Running just feels more effortless with crisp air, stunning foliage, crunchy leaves to step on, and trendy tights to rock.

The fall is also prime harvest season. So, when you swap your Mango Peach Salsa Yankee Candle with Apple Spice, be sure to do the same with your grocery list. Your palate and your legs will thank you.

Below are a few fall favorites you can count on to fuel your workouts, recover quickly, and perform your best.

Photo: Pixabay

Beets

Nitrates, baby. There is growing evidence on their performance-enhancing effects. While nitrates are found in nearly all vegetables, beetroots take the lead with more than 250 milligrams per 100-gram portion.1 Dietary nitrate is converted into nitric oxide, where it functions in blood flow regulation, muscle contraction, glucose and calcium homeostasis, and mitochondrial respiration. By increasing blood flow and decreasing oxygen needs during exercise, beets may improve your speed and stamina.1-4

This simple, yet hearty, Food Network salad balances the earthy taste of beets with creamy goat cheese and crunchy nuts. Add chicken or quinoa to make it a well-rounded meal.

Photo; Pixabay

Winter Squash

Pumpkins, butternut squash, and acorn squash are all in the same family of winter squash. Compared to their summer squash cousins, they have thick skins which means longer storage life and obligatory decoration on your kitchen counter.

Their bright orange color is a clear indicator that they’re packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that will keep our immune system in check and support our vision. But they’re also an excellent source of carbohydrates, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Eat before workouts to keep you energized and hydrated, or eat afterwards to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue.5-9

Don’t toss those pumpkin seeds either! They offer a tasty source of protein, iron, and magnesium – nutrients that must be replenished after strenuous exercise. Bonus — pumpkin seeds are also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid involved in the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin.10-12 Toss seeds on salads, roasted squash, or soup to reap benefits on mood and sleep.

Pumpkin or butternut? Can’t decide? Have both. Try this Food & Wine soup as an appetizer for your post-Turkey Trot meal.

 

Photo: Pixabay

Cabbage

A stomach can be a runner’s worst enemy, but cabbage is a stomach’s best friend. High in fiber, cabbage will keep you feeling full longer and keep your digestion system, ahem, on track. There’s also emerging research on the benefits of probiotics, like cabbage kimchi, on athletic performance via enhanced recovery from fatigue, immune function, and GI function maintenance.13

Still on that Oktoberfest kick? Try this German-inspired Eating Well dish that pairs pork chops with a sweet-and-sour cabbage side. Hefeweizen optional. Prost!

 

Photo: Pixabay

Clementines

When the days get shorter and darker, a fresh clementine can brighten up your day. Get your “Christmas-orange” while it’s in season from late October to early February. The citrus smell that the peel leaves on your hands will keep you feeling rejuvenated through afternoon class. Rich in vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, these easy-to-peel snacks can help reduce exercise-related oxidative stress, support a healthy immune system, and keep you hydrated.14-17 Vitamin C also plays a role in the production of collagen, which is important for joint and tissue recovery after a workout.14,15

Combine citrus with cinnamon spice after your workout with this One Green Planet breakfast bowl. Bonus—cinnamon has anti-inflammatory effects that may decrease muscle soreness in response to cell damage.19 

Resources:

  1. Murphy, M et al. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(4):548-552.
  2. Coleman, Ellen. Reap the Benefits of Beetroot Juice — Evidence Suggests It Improves Heart Health and Athletic Performance. Today’s Dietitian. 2012;14(2):48.
  3. Shannon, Oliver et al. “Beet-ing” the Mountain: A Review of the Physiological and Performance Effects of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation at Simulated and Terrestrial Altitude. Sports Medicine. 2017;47(11):2155-2169.
  4. Peeling P, Cox GR, Bullock N, Burke LM. Beetroot Juice Improves On-Water 500 M Time-Trial Performance, and Laboratory-Based Paddling Economy in National and International-Level Kayak Athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015;25(3):278-84.
  5. Krustrup et al. Sodium bicarbonate intake improves high-intensity intermittent exercise performance in trained young men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12(25).
  6. Feldman, Donna. Why Sodium-Potassium Balance Is Critical for Better Hydration. com. <https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/why-sodium-potassium-balance-is-critical-for-better-hydration&gt;. Accessed October 2017.
  7. Mansfield, Beth. Fall Nutrition means Winter Squash! Peak Performance. <http://peakperformance-ca.blogspot.com/2010/10/fall-nutrition-means-winter-squash.html&gt;. Accessed October 2017.
  8. Peternelj, T, Coombs, J. Antioxidant Supplementation during Exercise. Beneficial or Detrimental? Sports Medicine. 2011; 41(12): 10342-1069.
  9. LeBlanc K, Nelson, A. Beta-Carotene and Exercise Performance.: Effects on Race Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1999; 31(5):118.
  10. Brown, Mary. Top 11 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds. Authority Nutrition. June 2016. < https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds#section1&gt;. Accessed October 2017.
  11. Ristić-Medić et al. Alpha-linolenic acid and cardiovascular diseases. Med Pregl.2003; 56(1):19-25.
  12. Chollet et al. Magnesium involvement in sleep: genetic and nutritional models. Behav Genet. 2001;31(5):413-25.
  13. Pyne et al. Probiotics supplementation for athletes – Clinical and physiological effects. European Journal of Sport Science. 2014; 15(1):63-72.
  14. Economos C, Clay W.D. Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits. FAO Corporate Document Repository. 1998. <http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2650T/x2650t03.htm#TopOfPage&gt;. Accessed October 2017.
  15. Shaw et al. Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. American Society for Nutrition. 2017;105(1):136-143.
  16. Organic Facts.9 Best Benefits of Clementines. <https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/clementines.html&gt;. Accessed October 2017.
  17. Adams AK, Best TM. The role of antioxidants in exercise and disease prevention. Phys Sportsmed. 2002;30(5):37-44.
  18. Baur, J. What fall produce should I eat? Runner’s World. 2017;10:p 36.
  19. Mashhadi et al. Influence of Ginger and Cinnamon Intake on Inflammation and Muscle Soreness Endued by Exercise in Iranian Female Athletes. Int J Prev Med. 2013; 4(1): S11–S15.

Megan Maisano, referred to as Megatron by family, is a second-year NICBC student and an RD-to-be. As a marathoner, triathlete, and military veteran, she’s interested in how nutritious food can best fuel endurance performance. She loves to plan and has a special place in her heart for mixed nuts and her pup, Nala.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving’s Holy Trinity: Turkey, Cranberries, and Pumpkin Pie

by Jennifer Pustz

These three staples are the stars of many a Turkey-day menu, symbols of a celebration shared by Native Americans and the English in the early years of the Plymouth colony. But were these foods at the “first feast?” How have these headliners stood the test of time? Friedman student and historian Jennifer Pustz gives us the scoop.

The air is crisp and the leaves are turning red, orange, and gold. Pumpkin is the flavor featured in nearly every bakery and coffee shop. It is fall in New England. In the midst of midterms and heavy workloads, many of us look forward to Thanksgiving break for a brief respite filled with friends, family, and Turkey-day comfort food. As we know, many holidays are centered on food-related traditions, but no holiday is more deeply rooted in specific foods than Thanksgiving. Turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are the headliners of the traditional feast and evidence of their long connection to the Thanksgiving celebration may be found in the very best history books—cookbooks.

The fact that bountiful tables and cornucopias have become symbolic of Thanksgiving is somewhat ironic given challenges that English colonists faced during their early years in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Half of the first settlers to arrive on the Mayflower in November 1620 died during their first winter in the colony. Lack of shelter, disease (in some cases, like scurvy, due to malnutrition), and hunger took a heavy toll. The indigenous people of New England had long managed periods of bounty and want by moving camps frequently with the seasons. The English brought none of these skills and arrived after the growing season was over in September/October. Their situation slowly improved, due in part to contact with Native Americans who taught the English how to grow corn, a grain they may have known but not nearly as well as wheat. The English brought seeds for wheat, rye, and peas with them, but their early attempts to grow familiar crops in an unfamiliar place were largely unsuccessful. But a future successful harvest would be worthy of celebration.

 

Thanksgiving greeting card, 1907. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Thanksgiving greeting card, 1907. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

 

The turkey has long served as the symbol of the Thanksgiving feast. Although the story of the first Thanksgiving is a mélange of myth and conjecture, the turkey may have actually been part of the celebration shared by Native Americans and the English in the early years of the colony. In his history of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford mentions the plentiful population of wild turkeys. By the end of the eighteenth century, a recipe for stuffed turkey served with cranberry sauce could be found in the earliest cookbook written by an American for an audience of fellow countrywomen using ingredients that could be procured in this country. In American Cookery, first published in 1796, Amelia Simmons included the following instructions for stuffing and roasting a turkey:

“Grate a wheat loaf, one quarter of a pound of butter, one quarter of a Pound of salt pork, finely chopped, 2 eggs, a little sweet marjoram, summer savory, parsley and sage, pepper and salt (if the pork be not sufficient) fill the bird and sew up. . . . hand down to a steady fire, basting frequently with salt and water, and roast until a steam emits from the breast, and put one pound of a butter into the gravy, dust flour over the bird and baste with the gravy; serve up with boiled onions and cramberry-sauce, mangoes, pickles, or celery.”

The cranberry was a part of the native Wampanoag People’s diet for centuries before the English arrived. The colonists were familiar with a European variety and used it in the aforementioned sauce, and also filled pastries with stewed, strained, and sweetened cranberries. In addition to being a fruit that kept well, it had the nutritional benefit of preventing scurvy.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods remind us of the seasonality of foodways in an era before reliable refrigeration. It is unclear exactly when the first harvest celebration that became known as the modern Thanksgiving holiday took place, but it is believed to have been between the months of September and November. Therefore, vegetables harvested in the fall—pumpkins and other squash, potatoes, and other root vegetables—became an important part of the holiday feast. Amelia Simmons included two recipes for pumpkin pie in American Cookery. Of the two recipes, the simplest instructed readers to combine “One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.” In fact, pies of all types—sweet and savory—were a regular part of early American meals, not just on special occasions as they are more likely to be today.

 

Thanksgiving greeting card, 1908. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Thanksgiving greeting card, 1908. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

 

For many modern Americans, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner comes the next day, when they turn leftover turkey into sandwiches, hash, soup, casseroles, and more. In 1877, a popular cookbook called Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping offered recommendations for leftovers that might be considered tasty even today:

“After Thanksgiving Dinner a most excellent hash may be made thus: Pick meat off of turkey bones, shred it in small bits, add dressing and pieces of light biscuit cut up fine, mix together and put into dripping pan, pour over any gravy that was left, add water to thoroughly moisten but not enough to make it sloppy, place in a hot oven for twenty minutes, and, when eaten, all will agree that the turkey was better this time than it was at first.”

However you celebrate your Thanksgiving, be it with an organic turkey or a Tofurky roll, with or without cranberries and pumpkin pie, may it be filled with joy and gratitude.

The recipe quoted here (and many more) may be found on the website of Michigan State University’s Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks. If you would like to learn more about Thanksgiving’s origins and food history, check out J.W. Baker and Peter J. Gomes, Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2010), which is available as an e-book from the Tufts library. And, if you’d like to see where history was made, a visit to Plimoth Plantation—an easy day trip from Boston—provides the perspectives of the English colonists and the Wampanoag People: https://www.plimoth.org/

Jennifer Pustz is a first-year NICBC and MPH dual-degree student. Prior to starting at Friedman, she worked for ten years as the museum historian for Historic New England, the nation’s oldest regional heritage organization, and prior to that as historian for Brucemore, a historic house museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her research has focused on the stories of enslaved and free domestic servants from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. She was also a contributor to Historic New England’s publication, America’s Kitchens (2009), a history of the domestic kitchen that cultivated a love of food history. In her new career, Jennifer hopes to weave the lessons of the past into the future of healthy eating behaviors, interventions, and policy.

 

 

Five Veggies to Try This Fall

by Katelyn Castro

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, you may be missing the summer barbeques with crisp corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, and fresh tomato-mozzarella-basil salads. But, don’t fill your grocery cart with canned or frozen veggies just yet! Fall vegetables can be just as satisfying, especially when you have some delicious recipes to try.

“Eat your veggies!” We’ve probably all been told this before, whether it was from our doctor, our parents, or some health nut on a juice cleanse. Despite the known health benefits of vegetables, 87% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily serving of vegetables (2 ½ cups), according to a national report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vegetables are expensive. They don’t taste good. I don’t know how to prepare them… As a nutrition student, these are the most common answers I hear when asking patients, friends, and family their reason for not eating vegetables. As a hummus-and-veggie lover, I am determined to change vegetables’ bad reputation! Believe it or not, vegetables can be affordable and they can taste pretty darn delicious if you know when to buy them and how to prepare them.

With a variety of fresh and local produce available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores during the fall season, now is the perfect time to start eating more veggies. Seasonal vegetables are not only more tasty and nutrient-rich since they are picked at peak harvest time, but they are also usually less expensive than out-of-season produce.

Here are five seasonal vegetables to try this fall, along with some cooking preparation tips. Whether you like your veggies soft or crunchy, savory or sweet, the following recipes offer something for everyone’s palate.

1- Cauliflower

Due to its mild taste, cauliflower is extremely versatile, making it an easy vegetable to incorporate into almost any dish ranging from pizza and casseroles to rice and pasta dishes. As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower adds bulk and fiber to meals without significantly altering flavor. Try steaming cauliflower, then mash it with potatoes, use it to make a pizza crust, or bake it with macaroni and cheese. One cup of steamed cauliflower provides three grams of fiber and 92% of the daily value of Vitamin C in only 29 calories!

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

2- Winter Squash

Although named for its ability to stay hardy throughout the winter months, winter squash is actually harvested during the fall. Pumpkin may be the most popular type of winter squash, but acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash are other fall varieties that can be just as flavorful. The sweet flavor and dense texture make winter squash a great addition to soups, salads, lasagnas, and even desserts. Don’t let the tough exterior or hefty size of winter squash intimidate you! Most varieties can be easily sliced and baked, requiring little effort to prepare. One cup of cooked and cubed winter squash is a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. However, to really reap the benefits of winter squash, don’t forget to eat the seeds! Winter squash seeds are one of the top sources of magnesium and zinc, which are both important nutrients for metabolism and immunity. One ounce of roasted seeds provides 35% of the daily value of magnesium and 20% of the daily value of zinc.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

3- Carrots

Yes, they may be available all year round, but carrots are at their best in the fall. As a hardy vegetable, carrots are a convenient snack to pack and eat on-the-go with hummus or a yogurt-ranch dip. Adding sliced or shredded carrots into a salad or wrap are other easy ways to add more veggies to your diet. If cooking carrots, try roasting them with some healthy oil, like olive oil, or steaming them with a few drops of water. By steaming or roasting, you’ll preserve the water-soluble vitamins and minerals in carrots, which can be lost if cooked in a lot of water. One cup of raw carrots (or ½ cup steamed or roasted) has more than 100% of the daily value for Vitamin A, an important nutrient for eye and skin health.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

4- Cabbage

Cabbage is another vegetable that seems to be in grocery stores all year round. However, cabbage is truly at its peak in the fall, with red cabbage, green cabbage, and bok choy most commonly available. In addition to being a staple in coleslaw, cabbage is also a great veggie to add to green salads, sandwiches, and wraps for a light and crunchy flavor. For a softer texture, try roasting or sautéing cabbage as part of a savory or sweet side dish. Although the nutritional value varies depending on the type of cabbage, all varieties are a great source of fiber and many vitamins and minerals. One cup of chopped green cabbage has 85% of the daily value of Vitamin K, an important nutrient for blood clotting and bone health. In contrast, one cup of chopped red cabbage provides a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Red cabbage is also rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which give cabbage its deep purple color.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

5- Rutabaga

This list would not be complete without one oddball! Rutabaga may not be the prettiest of vegetables with its bulbous shape and hairy roots, but this root vegetable deserves a chance. Rutabaga’s mild flavor, slightly sweeter than turnip, makes it a great substitution or addition to potato dishes. As a versatile vegetable, rutabaga can be mashed like potatoes, puréed into soups, or roasted with herbs alongside other root vegetables. One cup of cooked rutabaga provides three grams of fiber, 16% of the daily value of potassium, and 53% of the daily value of Vitamin C.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

 

Looking for other veggies to try during this fall season? Check out this chart for a list of produce with their typical harvest months in specific towns and cities within Massachusetts. To find a farmers’ market near you, use this map to search for open markets based on location and preferred type of produce.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition Program at the Friedman School. She is a food science geek who loves experimenting with different seasonal veggies in the kitchen and forcing her friends and family to try her healthy concoctions.