Fall kicks off the holiday season, synonymous with hearty meals and a few extra pounds. Thankfully, a couple of seasonal favorites are superfoods. Introducing the nutritional powerhouses of the season - Pumpkin and Cranberry!
These two are not just your regular fall ingredients; these are nutrient-dense superfoods packed with benefits that can elevate your health while allowing you to indulge guilt-free in the festive vibes.
Let’s learn more about the latest research on the many health benefits offered by cranberry and pumpkin, and try the tempting, guilt-free, paleo-friendly holiday recipes below!
Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
Cranberries offer numerous health benefits since they are an abundant source of many bioactive compounds, vitamins, minerals, and more.1
Yes! Increased consumption of cranberries is associated with a reduction in body mass index (BMI). Researchers suggest the phytonutrients in cranberry inhibit gastrointestinal digestive enzymes to reduce energy intake and support weight loss.2
Raw fresh cranberries offer dietary fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E, K, and A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, omega-3 fats, and numerous potent phytonutrients to support robust health.1
Anti-aging Antioxidants for Glowing Skin:
Many of the nutrients in cranberries are potent antioxidants, so cranberries offer anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits.1
Reduction of Cardiovascular Metabolic Risk Factors:
Research shows cranberries prevent and treat cardiovascular disease in many ways. Cranberries improve your cholesterol profile by reducing (bad) LDL and increasing (good) HDL levels. Cranberries also reduce blood pressure, prevent metabolic syndrome, and lower the risk of developing type II diabetes.1,2
Prevention and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections (UTI):
Across traditional and holistic medicine, cranberries are widely recognized for their ability to treat and prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Research studies demonstrate cranberries prevent the adhesion of Escherichia coli (E. coli) to the urinary tract to keep you healthy.1,3,4
Research shows cranberry plays a protective role against stomach, breast, prostate, and many more types of cancer.
Try the recipes at the end of this blog post to deliciously capture all the health benefits cranberries offer!
Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.)
Traditionally, pumpkins have been a staple remedy for ages, and modern science confirms these health benefits:
Pumpkin Power for Parasites:
When preparing fresh pumpkins, don’t forget to hold onto the powerful seeds! Research shows pumpkin seed extracts offer antiparasitic activity in humans and animals.5,6
Sweet Success for Diabetes – Pumpkin for Optimizing Blood Sugar Levels:
Yes, delicious pumpkin offers biologically active phytonutrients that support optimal blood sugar levels.7
These potent phytonutrients in pumpkin inhibit the activity of enzymes that release carbohydrates, which can reduce your blood sugar level. The blood sugar-lowering effect of pumpkin was clearly shown in a clinical trial that included participants with diabetes. Scientists administered only 5 grams of pumpkin juice to the participants every 12 hours for three days. Blood sugar levels were effectively and significantly reduced with no adverse events.8
Pumpkin extract also:
- Optimizes cholesterol levels
- Protects the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from damage8-10
Pumpkin For a Radiant Glowing Complexion:
Pumpkin nourishes healthy skin from the inside out because it contains high levels of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, antioxidants, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene - a precursor for vitamin A.
Carotenoids and vitamin A have many beneficial effects on the skin. They reduce sebum production to improve acne, regulate sebaceous gland activity, support healthy hair and nail growth, and offer anti-aging benefits.11,12
You can even apply pumpkin directly to your skin! Pumpkin has natural plant enzymes that gently exfoliate to clarify your complexion. Try this DIY Pumpkin Facial as a holiday treat!
A Virus Shield:
Research shows the phytonutrients extracted from pumpkin exert antiviral activity against both DNA and RNA viruses. Researchers suspect the pumpkin phytonutrients prevent viruses from entering cells and block viral replication.13
Pumpkin For Anti-inflammatory Benefits:
Pumpkin extract downregulates pro-inflammatory cytokines while upregulating natural antioxidants in the body.14 Pumpkin even reduces the inflammatory effects of mycotoxins, which are the microscopic toxins produced by mold.15 Mycotoxins can lurk in your environment and your food.16,17
Pumpkin is a delicious dietary staple that also offers abundant health benefits. In addition to the health-boosting attributes highlighted above, research shows the phytonutrients in pumpkin also offer antibacterial activity, have blood thinning benefits, and act as a cough suppressant.10
Here are several healthy & paleo-friendly recipes you and your family can enjoy this holiday season:
Organic Paleo Parsnip Pumpkin Soup Recipe
- 3 cans of organic pumpkin puree or 6 cups of freshly roasted organic sugar pumpkin
- 3 organic parsnips roasted with olive oil and sea salt - chopped
- 1 organic white onion, chopped
- 1 - 2 cups organic celery, chopped
- 2 cloves organic garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. organic ginger, minced
- 2 cups organic vegetable broth for a thick soup, 3 cups for a thinner soup
- 1 – 2 cups freshly squeezed organic orange juice
- ¼ tsp. organic cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. organic nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. organic paprika
- Sea salt to taste
- Wash, peel, and slice the parsnips. Place the chopped parsnips in an oven-safe glass baking dish with a glass top. Drizzle olive oil over and gently salt the parsnips. Cover with the glass top and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until tender.
- If using fresh pumpkin, cut the sugar pumpkin(s) in half, remove the seeds, apply olive oil and salt to the flesh, and place the flat side down on an oven-safe pan for roasting. Roast at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
- While the parsnips (and pumpkin) cook, add onion to a large stainless steel stock pot and sauté until translucent. Then, add the garlic, celery, ginger, and spices to the onion. Gently sauté for another 8-10 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth to the pot and stir the ingredients together.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the tender parsnips and pumpkin puree. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add 1-2 cups of organic orange juice to desired soup consistency.
- With safety in mind, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Turn the stove off and stabilize the pot while using the immersion blender (handheld blenders can be more powerful than you expect!)
- Add sea salt to taste and serve warm.
- Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze.
Organic Vegan Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream Bars Recipe
For the Crust:
- 3 cups organic raw walnuts
- 10 organic dates, pitted
- 3 tablespoons organic coconut oil softened or melted
- ½ teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon organic maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (do not use coarsely ground sea salt)
For the Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream:
- 2 cups organic raw cashews, soaked in water overnight in the refrigerator to soften
- 2/3 cup organic full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1/3 cup organic coconut oil melted
- 1 cup pureed organic pumpkin
- 2 organic dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup pure organic maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons organic lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons organic pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon organic fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon organic pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt to taste
Make the Crust:
- Line a freezer-safe 8x8-inch square glass dish (or pan) with parchment paper.
- Add the raw walnuts to a food processor with a “puree setting,” and puree until the walnuts are finely ground.
- Add the other ingredients for the crust to the food processor and puree until they are well combined and form a sticky dough.
- Transfer the crust mixture to the parchment-lined pan and press it into an even layer. Place the crust in the freezer while you prepare the pumpkin cheesecake ice cream.
Make the Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream:
- Place the cashews in a bowl and add filtered water until the raw cashews are covered. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to soften the raw cashews overnight.
- Drain the cashews.
- Add the cashews and all remaining ingredients for the ice cream to a high-powered blender. Blend on the soup (or higher) setting until the ice cream is smooth and creamy. Taste the ice cream mixture and add more cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, pure maple syrup, dates, or sea salt to taste.
- Pour the ice cream over the crust and spread it into an even layer. Freeze for at least 2 hours, or until set. (Note: use a pie dish instead of a square pan and thaw in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours after freezing to serve as a pumpkin cheesecake pie at room temperature.)
- After they set, cut into bars, and serve cold.
Warm Organic Paleo Vegan Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 1 (12-ounce) package of fresh organic cranberries
- ½ cup freshly squeezed organic clementine (or orange) juice
- ½ cup organic amber maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon organic ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
- Optional – 1 teaspoon finely grated organic orange zest
- Begin cooking this warm organic cranberry sauce approximately 45 minutes before dinner is served.
- Place the organic clementine juice, cranberries, amber maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan over low heat. Also, add orange zest if desired.
- Once the cranberries begin to soften and release their ruby red juice, gently stir the sauce and increase the temperature from low to medium-high heat.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until all cranberries have softened and opened.
- Serve warm by pouring over other holiday favorites, such as turkey, vegetables, or vegan roast.
Organic Paleo Vegan Roasted Cranberry, Brussels Sprout, and Pecan Medley Recipe
- 4 cups of fresh organic Brussels sprouts, quartered
- 2 tablespoons organic olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon organic ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1cup fresh whole organic cranberries
- ½ cup chopped organic pecans
- 4 tablespoons organic Balsamic vinegar
- Wash organic Brussels sprouts and remove any damaged leaves. Cut the organic Brussels sprouts into quarters.
- Place the organic Brussels sprouts (quarters) in a medium saucepan with the organic olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Gently stir to coat the Brussels sprouts. Add water and cover the pot.
- Turn the stove on low to medium heat and allow the Brussels sprouts to steam for 15-20 minutes in the covered saucepan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees during steaming.
- Place the steamed Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are toasted and soft.
- Add the organic cranberries and pecans to the baking sheet, gently mix them with the Brussels sprouts, and bake the medley for another 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place the medley in a bowl, and toss with organic Balsamic vinegar.
- Serve warm.
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