As the new winter season approaches, farmer’s markets and grocery stores stock up on winter’s favorite vegetables: gourds. This diverse family of vegetables includes different varieties of squash and pumpkin. The different strains of gourds have numerous health benefits which aid in boosting immunity, blood circulation, bone strength and enhancing eyesight. Gourds also work with our body to fight against inflammation, diabetes, and gallstones. In the United States, the different varieties of gourds are classified as either summer or winter squash. But most of these hearty vegetables take to the spotlight during fall and winter. Prepared as either sweet or savory, these delicious vegetables belong to the genus Cucurbita and are not shy of their benefits.
- Immunity Booster
Maintaining a strong immune system is essential to our bodies’ optimal wellness. Pumpkin is notorious for its high source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant responsible for its orange color. Squash is also full of immunity boosting antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Antioxidants are important for counteracting free radicals, the erratic molecules that cause damage to healthy cells.
- Reduces Inflammation
Gourds contain several anti-inflammatory compounds that aid in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Many compounds, such as omega-3 fatty acids, different carotenoids, and some naturally occurring sugars are responsible for these anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Manages Diabetes
In a 2007 study conducted by the Journal of Medicinal Food, pumpkin showed the best potential in managing hyperglycemia due to its unique antioxidant activity and ability to control glucose levels. Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds have also been shown to improve insulin regulation.
- Improves Circulation
Several different gourds contain high levels of minerals responsible for managing blood circulation, such as copper and iron. Increased blood circulation can improve oxygen levels throughout the body. Gourds’ high levels of iron can also prevent anemia since iron is responsible for the production of red blood cells.
- Strengthens Bones
All gourds contain essential minerals that play a role in maintaining bone strength and density. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc.
- Protects eyesight
One serving of squash or pumpkin contains over 4x your daily requirement of vitamin A. Vitamin A can be converted to retinal, which is important for protecting the outer surface of the eye. The high levels lutein in gourds are also beneficial to eyesight. In a Harvard study done on individuals with retina damage, the university found that participants who took daily supplements of lutein and vitamin A had a slower loss of vision compared to those who did not.
- Lowers Risk of Gallstones
The high levels of magnesium in gourds can help protect against the formation of gallstones. Magnesium prevents gallstone formation by producing specific enzymes. The antioxidant components in gourds, such as beta-carotene, also aid in protecting against gallstones.
- Maintains Heart Health
All winter squash is rich in potassium, which plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. Just one cup of butternut squash provides almost 20% of your daily requirement of potassium.
- Muscle Builder
Pumpkin seeds are full of protein. They contain a whopping amount of 7 grams per servings, killing any stereotype that vegans are deprived of these muscle-building compounds.
- Promotes Healthy Digestion
Gourds, specifically winter squash, contain a large amount of fiber per serving. Acorn and hubbard squash contain the highest amounts of fiber within the gourd family, with about 10 grams per serving. The insoluble fiber content enhances digestion and bowel activity while the soluble fiber content promotes healthy cholesterol levels.