Celebrate Autumn With Pumpkin Seeds
Autumn has finally arrived in Maryland and that means that is it pumpkin season. Almost everywhere you’ll find lattes, pies, and soups with its namesake. We are celebrating the harvest with the seeds of this seasonal squash. Also called pepitas, these little seeds are extremely nutrient dense, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Here are why pumpkin seeds are fall’s favorite superfood!
Protein During pregnancy you should be consuming an extra 25g of protein per day. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vegetarian protein with about 5g in a one-ounce serving. Adding some seeds to a salad or a smoothie is an easy way to increase your protein intake. Pepitas are also particularly high in tryptophan, one of the 9 amino acids that comprise protein. Tryptophan is used by your body to synthesize the hormone serotonin; which is partly responsible for nervous system health, sleep regulation, and muscle growth and repair.
Minerals Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of several essential and trace minerals.
- Zinc Just one-quarter cup of pepitas provide nearly 20% of your recommended daily allowance of zinc. Consuming adequate levels of zinc helps maintain your metabolism, improves immune health, and facilitates digestion. Zinc is also vital to proper fetal development. Increasing your intake will help ensure you have a healthier pregnancy, birth, and baby.
- Magnesium Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of magnesium. This macro-mineral used by the body to form teeth and bones, synthesize proteins, regulate metabolism and maintain heart health. Obtaining more magnesium may also increase blood flow and nutrition to baby via the placenta.
- Iron During pregnancy, blood volume increases 40-50%, and iron is required to make all those new red blood cells to transport oxygen through you body and to baby. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of this essential mineral.
Omega-3 These fatty acids are crucial for brain growth and fetal development. Consuming sufficient amounts of Omega-3’s from foods like pumpkin seeds is linked to better birth outcomes including a higher placental weight, lower risk for preeclampsia, longer gestation, and higher birth weight.
B-Complex Vitamins There are eight ‘B’ vitamins. All are crucial to normal body functions and a healthy pregnancy. The B-complex vitamins are essential for proper metabolism function, immune support, and normal nervous system growth in baby.
After you are finished carving your pumpkin make sure to set aside the seeds. Here are twelve plant-based recipes featuring pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
Nourishing Recipes For The First Trimester
Obtaining Essential Nutrients With Whole Foods
Eating a colorful, varied, and minimally processed diet is ideal for optimal health, and during pregnancy, this becomes more apparent. Your body requires specific essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support and grow a baby.
In these three recipes, I will explain why certain foods are ideal during the first trimester, and how their specific nutrients help you and baby. These nourishing dishes are all free from grains, dairy, and refined sugars.
First Trimester Smoothie
Coconut milk is a great alternative to traditional dairy; it is a rich source of several B-complex vitamins including B1, B3, B5, and B6. (There are 8 B-vitamins) Some of the many benefits include immune and nervous system support and enhanced energy production. During pregnancy, you also require more protein to support the rapid growth of your placenta and baby. Almond butter is a delicious addition to the smoothie and a great source of plant protein.
½ sliced, frozen banana
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tbsp almond butter
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup full fat coconut milk
¼ tsp lemon zest
Place all ingredients in blender and mix.
Ultimate Prenatal Lentil Salad
Adapted from My New Roots
This salad is particularly delicious! Lentils are an amazing source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps baby’s neural tube develop properly. Folate also helps support red blood cell production, which is important as your blood volume increases throughout pregnancy. Lentils contain a ton of protein and fiber, which really increases the satiety factor of this dish.
1 cup black (du puy) lentils, rinsed, cooked, and drained
¼ cup dried tart cherries
handful of finely chopped fresh herbs. (I enjoy mint and parsley)
3 tbsp chopped capers
¼ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp strong mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
Place salad ingredients in bowl. Prepare vinaigrette by placing all ingredients in a jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss everything together. This dish tastes best fresh at room temperature.
Wilted Greens with Creamy Lemon Tahini
Adapted from Love and Lemons
This recipe is loaded with superfoods. Dark leafy greens including spinach, chard, and kale are rich in vitamins and minerals. Greens like spinach are a surprisingly great source of calcium, which is needed for baby’s bone development. The addition of avocado lends more than creaminess to the sauce. It also contains high levels of vitamin B6, which helps baby’s brain development. Vitamin B6 can also ease nausea, a common first trimester symptom. Dark greens and the sesame tahini provide a superb source of iron, which supports red blood cell production, helping to prevent fatigue and anemia. Adding lemon to this dish enables your body absorb iron more effectively.
4 cups dark leafy greens (I prefer baby spinach)
1 cup broccoli florets
⅓ cup sesame tahini
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Sauté greens and broccoli in olive oil and set aside. Blend tahini, avocado, and lemon together in food processor. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water, to thin, if necessary. Plate greens and pour sauce on top.
Salt & Protein Can Reduce Risk for Pre-eclampsia
Eating a whole foods diet, with adequate amounts of protein, and water to thirst, can help alleviate many of the complications women face during pregnancy. A diet high in protein can help repair and grow muscle, stabilize blood sugar, and can lower a mother’s risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition, affects between 5-8% of mothers. Symptoms include high blood pressure, edema, rapid weight gain, visual disturbances, headaches, and pain in the upper right quadrant. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.
When I was pregnant with my first son, my midwife suggested I eat 80-120 grams of protein a day. Without fully understanding why this was so important, I gave it a shot, but really didn’t track my protein intake too closely. Around 35 weeks, my blood pressure started to rise, and at every prenatal appointment it was higher and higher. In an effort to reduce my blood pressure, friends and family told me to cut my salt intake, and unfortunately, I listened. As a result, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 36 weeks and risked out of my homebirth. At 37 weeks, I went to the hospital for an induction and had a very difficult birth that ended up being vastly different than anything I had hoped or planned for. I learned the hard way just how important protein and salt intake is in the maternal diet.
As someone who has experienced pre-eclampsia, it is important that I help spread the message about how diet can impact your and baby’s health and birth. This graphic explains how the body reacts when mom does not consume enough protein, calories and salt.
(The Brewer Diet can be very beneficial to pregnant mothers and focuses on a whole foods diet that is high in protein. This website is a wonderful resource to for those interested in learning more about The Brewer Diet. Proper nutrition really can make a huge difference in your birth experience.)