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There is one food that takes center stage during autumn -- the pumpkin!

Many people use this orange gourd as a decoration at Halloween.

But we also use it in many foods that are popular during the fall season -- foods like pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin cookies, pasta made with pumpkin and pumpkin pie. In fact, pumpkin pie is one of THE most common desserts at an American Thanksgiving table.

But perhaps we should eat pumpkin all year long, and not just in the fall.

Pumpkins are packed with important nutrients and vitamins. If cooked in a healthy way, meaning without much butter or sugar, pumpkin is a powerhouse of health benefits.

Pumpkin is good for your eyesight. The nutrient beta-carotene and Vitamin A are necessary for maintaining good eyesight. Pumpkins are a great source of both.

In fact, one nutrition website says that one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin can give you more than 200 percent of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin A.

Pumpkin may help reduce your risk of getting cancer. The National Cancer Institute in the United States says on its website that antioxidants may help reduce a person’s risk of getting cancer.

That is because antioxidants neutralize something called free radicals in the body. The Institute defines free radicals as “highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm cells.”

Antioxidants help to get rid of these free radicals. Examples of antioxidants found in food include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. And as we said earlier, pumpkin is full of beta-carotene as well as vitamin A.

Pumpkin helps your skin. Beta-carotene also helps to keep your skin healthy and young-looking. Yet another good reason to eat pumpkin!

Pumpkin may help your heart. Pumpkin is also loaded with potassium. Health experts say that consuming potassium may help treat hypertension or high blood pressure, just as decreasing your intake of sodium does.

Pumpkin may be good for weight loss. Pumpkin also has a lot of fiber. Fiber slows down digestion of food. When you eat pumpkin you feel full and eat less.

So, if it is available where you live, try to find ways to include pumpkin in your next meal.