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As fall ripens and cooler temperatures sweep in, pumpkins begin dotting front porches and fences as we prepare for Halloween.  Decorating and scary-evil pumpkin faces aside, these ancient fruits are a super power against chronic and killer disease.  Pumpkin has proven itself worthy of cancer-fighting powers, specifically in decreasing the risk of prostate, breast, lung, colorectal and gastric cancers.  Despite being a high-carbohydrate fruit, research shows that blood glucose control is improved when participants eat plenty of pumpkin. In studies with rats, the oils found in pumpkin seeds reduce hypertension from advancing. And, the seeds are also wonderful because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which means they are a fantastic means of increasing your daily omega-3 intake. (Read about how to fall in love with omega-3’s here.)

Pumpkins come in all varieties, including white, red, gray, green, blue, striped, and heirlooms, as well as large and small. Their flavors are as dynamic as their appearances. They can take a humble background note in casseroles and soups, or they can proudly hold the center stage with vibrant flavors in main dishes and stand-alone side dishes. By giving yourself the opportunity to explore with these ancient and veritable fruits, you’ll not only excite your eyes and pallette, you’ll also support your immune system, your skin and eye health.

Personally, I enjoy sprinkling a handful of pumpkin seeds over warm cereal (such as cooked millet or oats). I also regularly add them to yogurt parfaits, salads, and rice-bean-veggie dishes, such as kitchari.

Pumpkin is great in soup. Try this adventurous recipe for Pumpkin-Curry-Coconut-Apple Soup from Crescent Dragonwagon in her famed book, “Passionate Vegetarian”. If you are short on time, buy the stock and use a little apple juice in place of water. Just read the ingredients list to avoid using anything with hydrogenated oil, trans-fat, or MSG, please. Buy something with ingredients that you can understand and pronounce, like carrot, potato, celery, etc. You get the idea. Pacific Naturals is a great company that produces organic soups and stocks. (Perhaps one of my upcoming posts should be on ways to easily make your own stock. It’s always cheaper and healthier, and it is faster than you might think!)

Find great pumpkins at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and pumpkin patches or pumpkin orchards. Remember, save some of your pumpkin seeds for next year. Pumpkins are simply delightful to grow, especially for kids, growing with giant enthusiasm, as if showing you how grateful they are for the opportunity, and require relatively little tending. Start them in the late spring or early summer. Plant raw seeds (not roasted or salted) in healthy soil and in a very sunny location. You can  train the vines to grow up alongside your home and onto your rooftop. Imagine what how cool your rooftop would look if dotted with pumpkins! If you decide to do this, you MUST send me photos, okay? Another important note is that they are up to 90% water, so pumpkins are thirsty fruits  and require a lot of water, and prefer to drink before the hot sun rises (before 11 AM). You can mulch around the pumpkin patch to reduce moisture losses, but you’ll still need to water them every day. Don’t skimp! Here is a charming and thoughtful article on how to grow your own pumpkins next year.  For the more adventurous gardener, try growing an heirloom variety. Follow this link for a free growers guide from a NON-GMO, heirloom seed company. Your prolific pumpkins will provide you with enough product to trade with someone who is growing another crop you didn’t grow this year. Growing will save you money, will nurture positive relationships through sharing and trading, and will sponsor a joyful communion with nature and traditions.

Do you have another pumpkin recipe or growing tip? Please tell us about it in the comments! Help readers to discover the tantalizing ways we can enjoy the exciting world of PUMPKIN!

Love you Pumpkin-Heads,

Frances

P.S. If you like this, please share this post with others you love via Facebook, Twitter, and Email!

Other Resources:

Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Pumpkin Waffles Blog

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With all the excitement over the over-salted American diet and the need for reductions, you’d think that a lot of research stands to reason. Interestingly, there is a rather gaping hole just where we think our information would lie on sodium, disease processes, and upper limits. While there is some research to guide us, it is invariably mixed.

Background

In an effort to quantify the salt intake among patients with long-term Coronary Vascular Disease (CVD), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) extracted and analyzed data. The method was to use 24-hour dietary recalls, or recalling everything you ate for 24-hours and evaluating the overall nutrient intake. Unfortunately, this method excluded seasonings and therefore cannot offer a truly quantitative analysis for how much sodium actually intake affected the outcomes of CVD patients. Despite its limitations, this study’s findings are now used to inform current sodium recommendations.

The problem is that the current evidence is inconclusive for heart disease, largely because there is a lack of research that tests the relationship between sodium and heart disease directly. This gap creates dilemmas in making appropriate health recommendations.

Unfortunately, if you already have heart disease, the stage of your condition and the medications you are taking may significantly alter whether sodium restriction is beneficial for you. In some cases, restriction has actually been correlated with an increased mortality rate for heart disease.  Since sodium plays a key role in the renin-angiotensin response (a crucial system which uses hormonal signals for regulating blood pressure, blood viscosity, kidney function, among other things), studies have shown that a moderate to severe restriction activates the renin-angiotensin system, which has the effect of increasing blood pressure and retaining fluids.

A grain of salt

I think that one thing we can take away is that the one-size fits-all recommendations for are proving to be of little use and are potentially dangerous. I agree with Dr. Richard Fogoros, M.D. in that randomized, prospective, controlled studies are overdue.

With Love and Health,

Frances

Extra resources & citations:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284

http://heartdisease.about.com/cs/hypertension/a/saltwars.htm

Beich, K, Yancy, C. The Heart Failure and Sodium Restriction Controversy: Challenging Conventional Practice. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 23; 2008, 477-486.

Photo: http://www.merckmanuals.com

 

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