Skip To The Main Content

Fall in Love with the Power of Pumpkin By Jennifer Meachum RDN, LD

Feb 28, 2014

Pumpkin Spice CakesThis February as we celebrate Heart Health month I want to share the reasons why pumpkin makes my heart go pitter patter and makes my tummy smile. This super fall vegetable that belongs to the gourd family can actually be enjoyed all year round and is chock full of heart healthy nutrients that keeps your ticker ticking and in tip top shape. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin is an excellent way to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Fill ½ of your plate with fruits and vegetables to be sure to reap all the heart health benefits.

Color with Purpose

The signature bright orange color is not only beautiful but it has purpose. The bright color comes from the antioxidant beta carotene. Beta carotene and other antioxidants have the ability to fight off free radicals that may cause damage and stress to the heart and other vital organs. Beta carotene can also be found in carrots and sweet potatoes.

Pump it Up

Pumpkin is loaded with potassium, a mineral which plays an important role in keeping your heart beating. Having a healthy balance of potassium and other key minerals in your diet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Potassium can also be found in tomatoes, avocadoes, bananas, potatoes, and spinach.

Filling you Up

Just a ½ cup of canned pumpkin contains nearly 4 grams of fiber which is 20% of the daily fiber recommendation for adults. Fiber helps reduce cholesterol levels and also can be helpful in weight loss. Carrying excess fat around your chest and abdominal area can be extra dangerous when it comes to your risk of heart disease. As the inches increase so does the risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides (blood fats), and high cholesterol. So fill up on fiber to help keep you full and shrink your waist line. Women should aim for a waist circumference of less than 35 inches and men should measure in less than 40 inches.

Seeds of Strength

Pumpkin seeds make a tasty snack and have a wonderful nutty flavor but they are also an excellent source of magnesium. Magnesium is an extremely important mineral to the heart. It keeps our smooth muscle in our blood vessels strong, helps maintain a normal heart rhythm, and can help lower blood pressure. 1 ounce of these flavorful seeds has approximately 150 mg. Most adults need approximately 400 mg of Magnesium per day.

Pass the Pumpkin Please

Now that we know just how amazing pumpkin is for your heart let me remind you of how easy it is to include in your diet and my favorite ways to eat it. Canned pumpkin is inexpensive, has a long shelf life, and has a very concentrated amount of the powerful heart disease fighting nutrients. I include canned pumpkin in my chili recipe which lends a nice earthy flavor and serves as an excellent thickener. I ditch the eggs and oil and substitute a can of pumpkin to make super moist pumpkin spice muffins. You can also add canned pumpkin to your morning oatmeal or waffle and pancake batter. Pumpkin seeds also known as pepitas can be a great snack on their own or the perfect addition to your favorite trail mix recipe. Pepitas sprinkled on your salad can really bring your salad to life. Pumpkin seeds are also found in several brands of granola or cereal which add a nice crunch to your favorite yogurt. Grinding up pumpkin seeds can be a more affordable alternative to using pine nuts in pesto recipes. I hope you and your family will share the love for pumpkin and all of the other tasty fruits and vegetables that Mother Earth offers to nourish our bodies. Happy Heart Health Month!

If you are a member of the News Media, please contact Ashley Cardenas, Director of Public Relations at 210-297-1000 (office) or 210-837-2983 (cell).