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One of the most rewarding things of sharing health tips, practices and products is the feedback from people who read and implement what means so much to me. Here was my humbling moment last week:

“I want to thank you for strongly recommending ForksOverKnives.com. Another LDS friend also recommended it to me, and about 10 weeks ago, I finally started looking into it more seriously. I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading a great deal of written information by the excellent doctors and researchers there.

So! My husband and I have been on a plant-based, whole-foods diet for the past 10 weeks. He hasn’t had his cholesterol screening yet, but I had mine just two weeks into the diet. After just two weeks on the diet, my numbers dropped dramatically, and my doctor told me I don’t need to take statins any more. I have lost 21 lbs., and my husband has lost 30. Most of all, we are grateful that our cardiac health is improving and will do so steadily.”

Isn’t that amazing? And encouraging? Truth be told, those of us who want to eat like this (commonly referred to as whole-food, plant-based) are few in number. We feel fortunate to have found a Vegetarian Club that meets once a month for a potluck dinner. It’s casual and friendly, with newcomers as guests, and regulars bringing a dish to share. Most of the group seems to be nearly 100% committed, although others (including us) are “flexitarians” who eat meat at social occasions. We love this group, especially their friendly acceptance of wherever each person is on their personal health journey with no finger-pointing. The overall health, energy and good cheer of this group seems to indicate how well it is personally serving each of them in the long run.

There’s a theme for each month (chosen for the next month at the end of the evening) and everyone brings a potluck dish to share. The food is delicious, the company is fun (limited to adults) and the seasonal tablecloths/decor provide a little extra hospitality. When the delicious meal is over, we watch a video that is part of an extremely compelling series that promotes fruits, veggies, and exercise, as a healthy lifestyle.

Our theme for this month was “Pumpkins” and what a feast it was! I whipped up a batch of Bob’s favorite pumpkin muffins and am sharing a couple of the other fantastic recipes below. But as good as the eating is, get ready for a bonanza of eye-popping benefits from enjoying pumpkin. It’s nature’s true Halloween trick and treat!

Pumpkin, canned or fresh, is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron and Manganese.

The power behind a pumpkin’s bright orange color is beta-carotene, a provitamin that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Listen to this: One cup of canned pumpkin provides twice the daily recommended amount of the vitamin that nurtures healthy eye sight. It’s definitely one of nature’s best tricks for the Halloween season.

What else can a serving of canned pumpkin do for you?

One cup of canned pumpkin has seven grams of fiber and three grams of protein— even more than eating it fresh! It contains about 80 calories and one gram of fat. Canned pumpkin is packed with vitamins and provides over 50 percent of the daily value of Vitamin K which may reduce the risk for some types of cancer.

Here’s another Halloween pumpkin treat: More powerful for health than the pumpkin itself are the pumpkin seeds! One ounce (about 140 seeds) is packed with protein, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Studies suggest that pumpkin seeds help with blocking the enlargement of the prostate gland and lowering the risk of bladder stones. Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of phytoserols which research suggests can reduce cholesterol and even help prevent some types of cancers.

Eating pumpkin seeds can even help you sleep better and feel happier! Now, I firmly believe that just seeing a pile of bright, colorful pumpkins on a fall day is a mood booster and a fun gift from Heavenly Father.   But pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, the amino acids that are responsible for helping the body making serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that helps you relax and unwind. Not only do pumpkin seeds promote better sleep, the serotonin will improve your mood,

Eating pumpkins and seeds can help us:

  1. Feel Fuller and Protect Heart Health – High fiber content keeps the appetite at bay. High fiber has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Boost Vision, Pretty Skin and Smiles – Not only does Vitamin A help eyesight, it also helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and and even bones.
  3. Lower Blood Pressure – Pumpkin seed oil is full of phytoestrogens, which is beneficial for preventing hypertension.
  4. Sleep Better – As mentioned above, pumpkin seeds promote the development of serotonin. These are mood boosters and also helps us relax and sleep better.

With all that great stuff, we should be eating pumpkin year round. Thankfully, canned pumpkin is readily available 12 months of the year and there are so many great pumpkin recipes! You can easily find many online, but here are three of our favorite from our Pumpkin Potluck night:

They are meatless, and zero fat … and DELICIOUS!

Best Ever Pumpkin Soup

1 potato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 carrots finely chopped
1 yellow onion finely chopped
3 small cans of pumpkin
2 quarts of vegetable stock (I use the cubes from the soup section of the store),
2 cups coconut or almond milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons of maple syrup
Spices — salt, pepper, garlic to taste
Serve on the side to garnish: Croutons, pumpkin seeds and craisins.

Directions:  Gently sautee onions, potato and carrots in 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock until softened.  Add remaining stock, pumpkin, sugar, maple syrup and simmer until cooked and blended.  (The potatoes, carrots and onions will blend together into a smooth mixture.  If it is not as smooth as you’d like, you can run it through the blender for a lovely puree.)

Add the seasonings and serve in a hollowed out pumpkin for extra flair.

Our friend at the dinner served the soup with croutons he had made with thick whole wheat bread that he had lightly buttered (or you could spray with Pam) sprinkled with cinammon, then lightly toasted under the broiler, then cut into cubes.

This was elegant as well as delicious, served in the pumpkin with the bowls of croutons, pumpkin seeds and dried cherries on the side.

Carolyn’s Easy Pumpkin Muffins

I’ve made these many times and They were gone in a heartbeat. One of our new friends, at the end of the dinner, stood up and announced he’d like a whole pan of these for himself at our next gathering. We get the Bob’s Red Mill Museli at the grocery store and include it with our oatmeal every morning.   It’s got some nuts and seeds that really perk up everything!

2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oatmeal (or Bob’s Red Mill Muesili, or 1/4 cup chopped nuts and raisins)
1/2 cup Sucanat (we get it at the health food store)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line or spray muffin tins.
3.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the pumpkin, applesauce, water and eggs.  Combine wet and dry ingredients.  You may need to add some more water.  Divide into the muffin tins.
4.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops bounch back when lightly pressed.

Creamy Pumpkin Brown Rice

1 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cups uncooked brown basmatti rice
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I use cubes), separated
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste.

In a small pan, sauté the onion in 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth until soft and transluscent.

In a large pot, combine the pumpkin puree and the remaining vegetable broth in a large bowl until smooth.  (Easiest just to use a hand mixer).

Add the rice and the bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through and creamy, about 45 minutes.

Fluff and serve!

There are many more ways to eat and enjoy pumpkin healthfully online and I encourage you to enjoy several pumpkin dishes very soon.

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of eleven. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE