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Pumpkin Power!

By now most doors, stores, and classrooms are decorated to the hilt with pumpkins.  There are specimen pumpkins, carved ones and the original, round orange pumpkin whole yet touting the Autumn and upcoming,  Halloween. In addition to becoming Jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins are an excellent food source that treat your body with vitamin packed goodness. Pumpkins are a rich source of beta-carotenes, vitamin C, potassium, and even tryptophan.  They enhance one’s feeling of happiness, protect cells from free radicals and provide you with extra energy.  Pumpkins also have a lot of fiber which not only fills us up but is also good for our digestion, keeping one’s body regular. This hallmark Fall gourd can be cooked, baked, and seeded, almost none of it goes to waste.  From healthy snacks, creamy soups and sweet quick breads, muffins, mousse, and cookies, pumpkins can be mixed into a variety of recipes.   Classic pumpkin recipes include pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds.  Pumpkin seeds are rich in amino acids which are important players in the production of serotonin, the happy chemical in our brains.  After you have carved your pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them well in a colander aiming to get as much of the flesh off of the seeds as possible.  Put them on a cookie sheet and allow to dry a bit.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  You can add some olive oil (or pumpkin oil, super delish) and then go on your merry way with either sweet or savory; salt to cinnamon, or turmeric to ginger; be imaginative and go with your taste buds.   Pumpkin bread is a quintessential to this time of year.  Soft, moist and good any time (even kid friendly), pumpkin bread can be baked with chocolate, pistachios, crystalized ginger, bananas, and walnuts and this great low fat recipe I found on, made with pepitas on top (double dose of pumpkin power!). The options for making dishes with pumpkins are many.  With all of the health benes and fiber, go ahead and “gourd” yourself!     Boo!   Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades Writer and Social Media Correspondent Fitness Professional Twitter: @ATweetFit