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8 Good Things About Butternut Squash You Need To Know

8 Good Things About Butternut Squash You Need To Know

Butternut squash, a sort of “kissing cousin” to cucumbers and melons, is a cream-colored vegetable with a deep orange flesh, shaped roughly like a bell. It was only introduced to America in 1944, but since then has become prized for its delicious flavor as well as its health benefits, including those listed below.

1. You Will Load Up on Carotenoids

Say what?! Carotenoids are important antioxidants that come in many forms. When you load your plate up with butternut squash, you will be taking in four different kinds of antioxidants: alpha carotene, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The first two will be converted to vitamin A by your body, and the second two will be taken up by your eyes to promote good vision and avoid serious diseases like cataracts.

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2. You Will Get Plenty of Fiber

Butternut squash is great because it contains soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are very healthy for your body. Insoluble fiber helps to cleanse the digestive tract and bulks up stool to make constipation less likely. Soluble fiber is also important because it helps the body maintain steady blood sugar levels by breaking down carbohydrates more slowly. Because of this important quality, squashes and other high-fiber veggies are considered to be good for a diabetic diet.

3. You Will Load up on Electrolytes as Well

Electrolytes don’t just come from sports drinks. You can also replace them with food as well. Butternut squash is rich in three of the most important electrolytes: potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Among their many other tasks, electrolytes help to keep the balance of fluids in the body, as well as helping keep muscles and nerves healthy. In one serving of butternut squash, you will get 10% of your potassium, 11% of your magnesium, and 6% of your calcium for the day.

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4. You Will be Getting Lots of Vitamin C

Even people who don’t know a lot about nutrition know how healthy vitamin C  is for your body. It is an antioxidant, which means that it reduces oxidative stress on the cells and can even help to slow down the aging process. Antioxidants also decrease the chance of cell mutations that can eventually lead to cancer. A single serving of butternut squash will give you between 32 and 39% of all the vitamin C you need for the day.

5. You Will Be Getting a Healthy Snack

Not only can you feast upon the squash itself, you can also remove the seeds and roast them for a delicious and incredibly healthy snack. Butternut squash seeds are not only high in protein and fiber, they also contain compounds like oleic acid, which can be found in olive oil, and has been proven to be very heart-healthy.

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6. You Will Get Lots of B-Vitamins Too

B-vitamins are also incredibly important for your health, especially the health of your central nervous system. Loading up on squash can help keep your B-vitamin levels in a healthy range, providing you with 19% of B6, 11% of B2, and 6% of B3 for the day.

7. You Will Reduce Inflammation Throughout Your Body

Why does butternut squash help to reduce inflammation? Because it is rich in several different compounds that have been proven to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds include vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids (like the kind found in tuna or salmon), and compounds called cucurbitacins, which have potential anti-cancer benefits as well.

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8. You Will Lose Weight

Butternut squash is considered to be a high-quality food because it gives you a ton of nutrients for only a few calories. These nutrient-dense foods can help satisfy your hunger, making it easier to avoid overeating and thus achieve your weight loss goals. The good news is that this squash is incredibly versatile. It can be made into dozens of simple, healthy, and delicious recipes.

Conclusion

The next time you are in the produce aisle, pick up some butternut squashes and bring them home for dinner. You will not only get a great-tasting meal that your whole family will love, but also all of the important health benefits mentioned here.

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Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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