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Pumpkin Seeds for Your Pumper


Zinc levels affect heart’s ability to handle oxidative stress

Zinc – it helps you feel good, it helps you look good, and it may help your heart function at its best too.  Zinc is a mineral found in oysters, lentils, clams, cashews and, you guessed it, pumpkin seeds!  It’s an important nutrient, supporting immunity, healthy skin, cell structure, reproduction and new research suggests zinc levels may help the heart handle damage from free radicals. 

Recent research out of the Technical University of Munich explored the relationship between total zinc levels in the body and oxidative stress.  The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition observed heart concentrations of antioxidants glutathione and vitamin E in animals, and how they changed when nutritional zinc was omitted from the diet for several days.  As zinc levels decreased, so did antioxidant levels, creating an environment where it would be difficult to neutralize free radicals, leaving the heart susceptible to cell damage.  Researchers also noted that genes responsible for cell death were activated as a result of the declining zinc levels.  Eventually the heart tried to compensate for the low levels, by moving zinc from other organs like the liver and kidneys.  While true zinc deficiency is rare but well studied, very little is known about the effects of short term zinc deficit and more research is needed in this area.

If this holds true for humans, zinc levels play an important role in cardiac health, potentially mitigating effects of oxidative stress, which can increase risk for heart disease.  Men and women should aim for 11 and 8mg/day respectively. 

As autumn rolls in and the weather cools down, we suggest Tuscan Herb White Bean Soup and Mexican Chicken Salad with Pumpkin Seed Pesto to help keep your zinc levels steady.  Also, try incorporating these other sources: 

                                                                                                       Men(% DV)       Women(%DV)

Baked Beans 1c           5.79mg                 53%                        72%

Lentils                                 1c           2.51mg                 23%                        31%

White Beans                       1c           2.47mg                 22%                        31%

Pumpkin Seeds                   1oz         2.17mg                 19%                        26%

Oat Bran, cooked               1c           1.16mg                        1%                         15%

Here’s an idea, after you’ve carved your seasonal pumpkin, you can reserve and rinse the seeds in cold running water.  Once dry, spread onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Spray with vegetable oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and roast at 300F for about 15 minutes or until golden.  Once cool, enjoy as an addictive snack, or topping for yogurt and salads.   

Published October 1, 2017 

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