Pumpkins are dotting the countryside, in every yard and on every front porch. They’re a lovely splash of fall color, but more than being decorative, pumpkins are an amazing super fruit. We often call them a vegetable, but this nutritionally dense powerhouse is a member of the gourd family, a fruit.

Pumpkin contains an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid, and vitamins C and E. But the component that makes it a “super food” is the synergistic combination of carotenoids.

Foods rich in carotenoids are known to be big disease and cancer fighters. You recognize them by their beautiful yellow and orange color like in carrots, squash, yellow bell peppers, sweet potatoes, mangos and apricots. The bright color lets you know they are richly potent and full of phytonutrients.

High blood levels of carotenoids are associated with low levels of many chronic diseases and because of their anti-inflammatory properties, they reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies now show that because of the way these nutrients are absorbed, taking carotenoids in pill form can actually do more harm than good. So eating pumpkin is a great way to promote good health.

Pumpkin cannot always be found fresh when you want it. So even though fresh usually is best, canned pumpkin is a nice staple to keep on hand. Canned pumpkin is pre-cooked so it has less water and is therefore more nutritionally dense. There are 5 grams of fiber in a half cup of pumpkin — more than in breakfast cereal. And since there are only about 83 calories per cup, you can enjoy it and not worry about calories. Its creamy rich texture lends itself to baking and sweetening. But pumpkins can be deliciously savory and wonderful in main dishes. I had to share this recipe for pumpkin chili I found on www.neverhomemaker.com. It’s savory, delicious and perfect for his time of year:

Smoked Pumpkin Chili

What you'll need

1 medium to large cooking onion, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cans (or one large can) of dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

1 can of low-sodium corn kernels, drained and rinsed

1 large (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, keep the juice

1 can pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable broth (or beer of choice)

1 Tablespoon smoked paprika (or regular)

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

10 to 15 sage leaves (optional)