Want to boost your immune system this holiday season? Boost your Vitamin A intake.

By Janet Aumann

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The holidays are here, bringing the gathering of friends, family, and good food.  Decorations abound, often including colorful squash of all kinds. This is also the season of colds, allergies, and flu. So before you toss those beautifully carved and decorated squash and veggies, consider this. They’re high in Vitamin A, which is needed for normal functioning of the immune system, as well as for growth, bone development, and vision. 
 
What are some good sources of Vitamin A?  Think fall. Think orange, such as pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots, for example. The average recommended intake of Vitamin A is 900 micrograms for males 14 years and older, 700 micrograms for females 14 years and older, 750-770 micrograms for pregnant women, and 1200-1300 micrograms for nursing moms.  One whole sweet potato provides 1,403 micrograms, one cup of carrots provides 918 micrograms, and a piece of pumpkin pie provides about 488 micrograms.
 
Vitamin A is also found in other foods such as dairy products, liver, fish, fortified cereals, spinach, cantaloupe, and mangoes.  Since there are different forms of Vitamin A, it’s important to eat a variety of foods. 
 
If you’d like to learn more, you can visit the National Institutes of Health’s website.
 

Bonus Recipe: Get your Vitamin A from some homemade Pumpkin Pie

Not sure how to use a pumpkin for anything but a Jack-o-Lantern? Here’s a recipe for true homemade pumpkin pie, which is a bit more delicious than that stuff from a can: 

  1. Choose a small baking pumpkin. They provide the best flavor.

  2. Remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half.

  3. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Set seeds aside for roasting. 

  4. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the pumpkin halves on it with cut side down.  Cover them with foil.  Bake at 350 until tender, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

  5. When cooled, scoop out the flesh and mash. Drain if watery.

  6. In a mixing bowl, add 1 & 1/3 cups pumpkin, 1 & 1/3 cups sweetened condensed milk, 1 egg, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg,  ¼ tsp. ginger, ¼ tsp. cloves, and 1 cup of hot water.  Beat until smooth.

  7. Pour into a 9 inch pie shell.  Baked at 375 about 55-66 minutes. Center will move slightly when done.