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10 Health Benefits of Pumpkins You Didn’t Know (And 32 Creative Ways To Have Pumpkin)

10 Health Benefits of Pumpkins You Didn’t Know (And 32 Creative Ways To Have Pumpkin)

In the 6th grade, I won a 300 pound pumpkin through a raffle that my teacher held for us.

This was the biggest pumpkin I’d ever seen in real life! I was so stoked to have it, because nobody else in my neighborhood had one as big as this. Cutting it open and removing the insides was a primal experience. Carving it was exhilarating and I hardly had the patience to wait to get it on our front porch and show it off to everyone.

Then Halloween night came around, and the 300 pound pumpkin was on display on our front porch.  I’ll never forget that night.  Crowds of people hovered around to see the specimen. Some even took pictures. I was so proud of my pumpkin.

For nearly a decade after that night, that’s how I viewed pumpkin. It was something you carved out on Halloween and displayed for show. I never associated pumpkin as a food. Until I had it in my oatmeal (and I share an amazing pumpkin oatmeal recipe later in this post). Not only did I realize that pumpkin was delicious, I soon found out it’s an underrated super-food!

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Here are 10 reasons why:

1. You will feel fuller

Pumpkin seeds contain up to 1.7g of fiber, and mashed pumpkin has up to 3g of fiber per cup. Why is this important? First off getting 30-50g of fiber a day is recommended, unfortunately most people only get about half of that or less. Don’t worry, having some winter squash like pumpkin in your diet consistently (I’ll show you how you can do it at the end of this post) sets you up on the right path to hit your dietary fiber needs. Secondly, eating pumpkin increases satiation and helps you feel fuller longer, by slowing down digestion and regulating blood sugar levels.

2. You will sleep better

Pumpkin is rich in trytophan, an amino acid which gets converted to serotonin, which may also explain the post Thanksgiving sleepiness. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps you settle down, unwind and doze off to sleep.

3. You will have a healthy heart

Increased fiber intake can also help protect you from heart disease, research shows. In fact, one study of over 67,000 thousand women over a 10 year span, demonstrates that a diet high in fiber intake reduces the risk of heart disease.

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4. You’ll increase your prostate health

Pumpkin seeds should make their way in to every man’s diet for good reason. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in American men. One man in 7 are likely to get prostate cancer. Cancerous prostates show much less Zinc compared to healthy prostates and several studies have implicated impaired zinc status in the development and progression of prostate malignancy. Pumpkin is rich in Zinc; it contains more than 2mg per ounce which can contribute to the prevention of prostate cancer, research shows.

5. You will get magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in many physiological functions like the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), relaxation of the nervous system, muscle growth and regulating bowel movements. And, 80% of Americans are deficient magnesium. Just 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds deliver about 30% of your daily recommended magnesium requirements.

6. You’ll feel the antioxidant benefits

Beta carotene, is a provitamin the body converts into vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with its ability to fend of cancer. Beta carotene is thought to play a role protecting cells, boosting the immune system and helping to keep the reproductive system healthy. Get some pumpkin into your life! A half cup of canned pumpkin packs 953mg of vitamin A and only 42 calories. 

7. When you eat some pumpkin, you burn the fat

Pumpkin is a great high nutrient, low calorie food. With only 42 calories per cup and loaded with fiber, pumpkin will keep you full longer, and regulate your blood sugar levels to keep food cravings at bay which helps you eat fewer calories and burn more fat.

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8. It’ll keep your eyesight sharp

A cup of pumpkin will meet your daily vitamin A requirements that aid in the integrity of your vision, especially in dim light according the National Institute of Health. 

9. You will have to eat less bananas

Bananas have made themselves popular for their potassium benefits.  But did you know that a cup of cooked pumpkin has 564mg compared to bananas 422mg?  Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and inactive reflexes, so switch it up and rotate some pumpkin into your diet instead of solely relying on bananas for potassium

10. It will boost your mood

Serotonin deficiency is a growing concern for many people. Researchers claim that it’s an epidemic  inflicting its unique dark cloud misery on people and it’s noted that 80% of people suffer from serotonin deficiency. The reason why serotonin is important to overall wellness is because it’s our primary defense against depression and anxiety. A simple way to make sure you’re producing natural serotonin is to include foods that contain the amino acid tryptohphan which gets converted to serotinin in your body. Pumpkin seeds contain loads of tryptophan which will help keep your outlook on life bright.

So how do you incorporate pumpkin into your diet?

You can do it in so many creative ways! Seeds, canned, cooked, raw, in a casserole, in a cookie. During the fall you can add canned pumpkin to almost any dish, and you have a seasonal autumn dish ready to go. I like adding canned pumpkin to my oatmeal. It’s quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. Here is my favorite pumpkin oatmeal recipe you can try.

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Don’t forget about the seeds: they are high in nutrition and super easy to prepare! After you remove the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin, rinse and dry them off.  Place them on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with your seasoning of choice (Here are 5 great ideas for seasoning) and lightly roast at 160-170 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Lastly, here are 25 awesome and delicious ways to include pumpkin into your diet. Enjoy!

Featured photo credit: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/search/?contributor=Gorilla via bigstockphoto.com

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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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