Heart Health Benefits of Pumpkin

We all know that pumpkins make great pies and autumnal decorations, but what about their “meat” and seeds? Now’s the time to learn more about the health benefits of pumpkins and try a few new recipes for your next dinner party.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkins are sources of some powerful nutrients to help keep you healthy and glowing through the holidays and beyond, says registered dietitian Jenny Champion. Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, which plays an important role in skin and vision health. They’re also a low-calorie source of satisfying fiber, says Champion.

Even the seeds of pumpkins can help make a healthy, delicious snack. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 1 ounce of dried pumpkin seeds contain 8.5 g protein and 10.5 g unsaturated fat. Pumpkin seeds also contain phytosterols, plant-based chemicals that play a role in lowering cholesterol levels, says Champion.

Choosing the Perfect Pumpkin

Because pumpkins are a seasonal vegetable, they’re only available in certain areas during a specific time of year. The best time to buy pumpkins in season is during the early autumn, says Champion. To determine the ripeness of your pumpkin, Champion suggests you poke your fingernail into the skin; if the skin doesn’t break, it’s ripe enough to eat. A whole pumpkin should last for about two months if stored in a cool, dark place.

Should you be looking for pumpkin during an off season, canned varieties and packaged pumpkin seeds are likely available at your local grocer. Both fresh and canned pumpkins are full of beneficial nutrients. Just be sure to check the label of your canned pumpkin: Products labeled “pumpkin pie mix” can be much higher in calories than regular canned pumpkin.

Cooking With Pumpkin

Pumpkin can be easily incorporated into any meal, including snacks and non-traditional holiday desserts. Use the pureed kind to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins, or make pumpkin granola with pumpkin seeds and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Original, a heart-healthy selection* that’s a good source of dietary fiber and made with whole grains. Pumpkin lends itself easily to soups and casseroles at lunch and dinner, with toasted pumpkin seeds making an excellent snack throughout the day. For dessert, leave your pie tin in the cupboard and try pumpkin ice cream, soup or cookies instead.

*While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Today’s Recipe: Fruit ’n’ Grain Parfaits

If you're looking for a way to rev up your morning meal, we've got it. Simply combine some low-fat dairy, fresh fruit and fiber-full Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Original cereal for a meal that's sure to keep you satiated and at the top of your game until lunch.



Makes 2 parfaits

Ingredients
1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup Kellogg’s® All-Bran® cereal

Two 8-ounce containers low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 raspberries

Directions

  1. Toss blueberries and cereal in a bowl until well-combined, mashing some of the berries with the back of a spoon.
  2. Spoon alternate layers of yogurt and cereal mixture into each of two tall parfait glasses. Top each glass with a raspberry. 

Today’s Recipe: Nutty Quinoa

The ancient grain quinoa can seem like a scary proposition -- particularly for youngsters and those who have never tried it before. Use this recipe to create a side dish that even your biggest critics will love.



Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-sodium canned chicken broth
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

3/4 cup Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® cereal

Directions

  1. Place pine nuts in a nonstick saucepan and toast over medium heat until golden. Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion to pan, and cook until onion is softened, about five minutes.
  3. Add quinoa and cook, stirring for one minute. 
  4. Add broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to pan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, another 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer quinoa to bowl, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and parsley. Stir in pine nuts and cereal, season with salt and pepper, and serve. 

Breakfast Made Better: 3 Heart-Healthy Swaps

When it comes to taking care of your heart, eating a healthy breakfast is one great move you can make. That said, you want to ensure you’re choosing heart-healthy options. “Foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausage and butter, are popular breakfast items, but they are not good for heart health,” says registered dietitian Robyn Flipse.

Here, we take a look at America’s favorite breakfasts, according to recent survey data, and offer heart-healthy swaps for each of these popular morning meals.

1. Cereal
Cold cereal was America’s No. 1 breakfast, topping the charts as the most common breakfast food, at 31 percent.

Make it nutritious: When deciding which type of cold cereal to pour into your bowl, a good option is one with fiber (at least 3 grams per serving), whole grains, and no trans or saturated fat. One of our top picks: deliciously heart-healthy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®. Made with whole grains, it’s an excellent source of fiber (7 g per serving) and a good source of potassium. Remember, too, that adding milk brings protein to your cereal bowl.

2. Bacon And Eggs
A classic morning dish, bacon and eggs was the second most popular breakfast. Around 2 in 10 Americans usually eat eggs, with or without bacon or ham.

Make it healthy: While eggs definitely pack protein, they’re only heart-healthy in moderation. Create an omelet or scramble with one egg and three whites, and you’ll cut out 10 g of fat. Instead of filling your omelet with cheese, choose salsa and veggies to further cut down on fat. Also consider swapping your regular bacon with turkey bacon, which can contain around 30 percent less fat.

3. Toast or Bagel
These carbs are a go-to breakfast for just over one in 10 of those polled.

Make it nutritious: Opt for 100 percent whole grains and double-check the fiber content. The increased fiber content can help keep you satiated; combined with an active lifestyle and a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, it’s also been linked with a healthy heart. Another simple breakfast swap: Add produce and protein to the mix. Instead of a bagel with cream cheese or toast with butter, for example, try nut butter (such as peanut or almond) or cooked veggies and beans between the halves. You could also eat only half a bagel and pair it with a small fruit salad and glass of low-fat milk. This creates a more balanced breakfast filled with protein and produce to help keep you satisfied. 

Today’s Recipe: Kale and Grapefruit Salad

Whether or not you're a kale convert, this salad's ingredients -- namely the grapefruit, toasted hazelnuts and optional sunflower seeds -- provide a nice balance to those leafy greens. Kale and grapefruit are also water-rich, low-calorie ingredients that pack a ton of nutrients. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 bunch (8 ounces) kale, center stems and ribs removed, thinly sliced

1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1 whole grapefruit

2 tablespoons hulled sunflower seeds (or to taste)

2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 shallot, thin or finely chopped

Kellogg’s® Smart Start® cereal

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place hazelnuts on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and toast until slightly browned under skin, about 15 minutes.
  2.  Remove skins by rubbing nuts between a warm towel, then roughly chop; set aside.
  3. Remove peel and pith from grapefruit. Working over a small bowl to collect juice, carve out segments between membranes; set segments aside.
  4. Combine 2 tablespoons of reserved grapefruit juice with red onion, canola oil, honey, salt, pepper and shallots to create a dressing in a separate bowl. Set mixture aside to soften.
  5. Toss sliced kale with dressing and hazelnuts. Serve and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
  6. Sprinkle on cereal for a crouton-like crunch.