Health benefits of pumpkins, squash and zucchini

November 4, 2016

Fall is in full swing and with the weather getting colder, many people reduce their outdoor activities and exercise routines and head to the gym. With less sunshine on our skin, less movement overall and more sitting, our immune system can pay the price.

And although you might get to the gym, the gym is full of germs and someone else’s sweat on the equipment—further risking your health this fall. The good news is, beyond using some sanitary wipes to reduce your risk of getting sick, you can boost your own immune system with a few simple fall foods added to your diet.

Three of my favorites

Foods I add each fall to boost my vitamin and daily mineral intake (so I stay healthy all season long) are pumpkins, squash, and zucchini.

If you want to reduce your risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions, many studies have suggested that increasing your consumption of plant foods can decrease your risk of gaining weight in the fall season.

Adding foods like pumpkin, squash, and zucchini can also help stave off diabetes, heart disease, and promote a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

What’s in these veggies that make them so valuable to your health this fall?

These foods are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and full of phytoestrogens, which research also shows can prevent hypertension. In a recent research study, when researchers fed rats a diet supplement with pumpkin oil, they found that it helped lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just 12 weeks. Pumpkin seed oil has also shown to help reduce the size of an inflamed prostate and boost sexual health in men. Ladies, are you reading this?

Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may also reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, and combat your body’s circulatory system, reducing your risk of asthma and heart disease, and delay aging and body degeneration.

Pumpkin, squash, and zucchini are very nutrient-dense food, meaning they are full of vitamins and minerals but low in calories, low on the glycemic index (meaning low in sugar), and high in water percentage. These properties, plus being a great source of healthy fiber help to make you feel more full so you don’t have food cravings as often in the fall season.

It’s also been shown that the potassium in these veggies not only helps reduce hypertension but also improves circulation. Other foods that are high in potassium include cantaloupe, avocado, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, spinach, and bananas.

butternut-squash-399415_640

Squash is also a super source of magnesium, folate, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids and also have a small source of protein and calcium. One cup of butternut squash provides a whopping 437% percent of your vitamin A needs for the day, as well as 52% of vitamin C and 10% or more of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and manganese.

Maganese has also been shown to help slow down the process of creating fat storage so that can further decrease weight gain in the fall—squash and pumpkins have a great daily dose of it!

All three of these veggies, especially zucchini are also low on the glycemic index, high in water percentage, and low in calories. One medium zucchini has over 50 percent of your daily vitamin C needs and 15 percent of your daily potassium intake. Seeds from squash plants also have a long history of use in traditional and folk medicines when it comes to giving your immune system a boost. They also have antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties so they also positively support your gut, nervous, and cardiovascular systems, and help keep your GI tract clear, reduce IBS, diverticulitis outbreaks, and leaky gut syndromes. That’s more benefits than what you find in most supplements so getting these foods offers the real deal when it comes to micronutrients.

How to eat them

There are many creative ways pumpkin and squash can be incorporated into meals, including desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter. I love eating butternut squash with a dollop of Greek yogurt over a salad instead of using salad dressing or simply as my dessert. I add pumpkin to sautéed kale as a side dish in the fall too. It’s one of my favorite meals in general.

So to reduce heart disease, gut issues, inflammation, bloat, and sugar cravings, consider eating one of these amazing sources of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients that are essential to keep up when the sun isn’t out to give you your daily dose of sunshine. Even with the sun low in the sky, try getting out there for at least 10-15 minutes a day for an afternoon walk. It does a body good!

There are a ton of great recipes using pumpkins, squash, and zucchini on the internet so search for them and add them to your diet this fall season.

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