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Winter Squash Boosts Your Brain

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winter squashes by gary stevens


With autumn upon us, it’s a wonderful time to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of the season. Winter squash is one of those foods that provide significant benefits to our brain and general health. Winter squash can help keep your brain functioning well and also lower stress-related anxiety at the same time.


Even the seeds from winter squash have brain benefits. In addition, squash seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. They also contain concentrated amounts of protein, minerals, and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% ofRDA), zinc (71%), etc., but zero cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of brain health promoting the amino acid tryptophan. 

 
What is it in winter squash that helps our memory and brain health? 
 
Winter Squash are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body.  High levels of inflammation can increase your risk of inflammation-related disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Research has also shown that inflammation in the body triggers the formation of plaque in different parts of the body including the brain and arteries. Plaque narrows and or clogs arteries restricting blood flow to the brain.
 
Winter squash is an excellent source of B vitamins and Flavanoids, such as α, ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. According to the University of Reading, research evidence suggests that foods rich in flavonoids possess the greatest potential to act on the cognitive processes (memory). It is also a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid. According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a deficiency of folate, vitamin B-6, thiamine or niacin can cause confusion or memory problems, so you need all four in your diet to avoid brain fog.  Folate also supports the formation and development of new cells and helps prevent birth defects, making this squash an ideal food for pregnant women.
 
Winter squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, good immunity and for vibrant eyes, skin and hair. In various studies, beta-carotene has been shown to improve overall cognitive function and verbal memory.

Winter squash contains extremely high amounts of vitamin C.  There are a many studies out there that espouse the benefits of vitamin C on memory and brain health. It makes sense since vitamin C is involved in making the neurotransmitters noradrenaline and serotonin, which affect mood.  In addition, vitamin C is shown to prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress causes the formation of amyloid plaque lumps, which contribute to nerve-cell death. The first center of the brain to deteriorate when this occurs is the memory center of the brain. Vitamin C can prevent this issue through its antioxidant properties and its effectiveness in destroying plaque build-up in the brain. 
 
Winter squash contain an extraordinary amount of fiber. There are many benefits to a high fiber diet. In terms of brain health, fiber plays a significant role in supporting a healthy digestive tract and effective gut management. Research has shown that there are as many neurotransmitters in the gut as there are in the brain.  Thus, GI disruption can impact neurotransmitter function which can impact brain and emotional health. 
 
Winter squash contains extremely high levels of potassium. One of the symptoms of low potassium is brain fog.  A one cup serving of butternut squash contains almost 500 mg of potassium. In addition, potassium can help decrease your blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in your diet. Research has shown that that high blood pressure reduces the brain and memory performance over time. 
 
Here are some popular varieties of winter squash to consider.
 
acorn squash by watashiwaniAcorn Squash - This mildly flavored squash is named for its acorn-like shape and can be found in most any grocery store in America. Choose one with a dull green rind; an acorn squash that's turned orange will have tough and fibrous flesh. According to SF Gate, acorn squash is more nutrient-dense than all types of summer squash. Acorn squash is rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidant compounds. A diet with a high intake of the nutrients provided by acorn squash may decrease the risk of a number of serious medical conditions. Acorn squash contains vitamin A, niacin, folate, thiamine and vitamin B-6, but it is an especially good source of vitamin C. For a delicious, kid friendly Acorn Squash Flowers recipe, click here.
 
blue hubbard by stephanie dillinghamBlue Hubbard Squash –Most blue hubbard squash are huge, bumpy, and lumpy, and often sold as pre-cut wedges. Underneath their gray-blue skin is sweet-tasting orange flesh. When cooked the flesh of Blue hubbard squash is tender and starchy with a rich and semi -sweet squash flavor similar to that of cooked pumpkin. Depending upon specific variety and when it is harvested Hubbard squash can weigh anywhere from five to forty pounds. Blue hubbard squash contain fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, and niacin. For a delicious and healthy Blue Hubbard Squash Recipe, click here.
 
 
buttercup by wouldpkr tbButtercup Squash - Buttercup squash are compact and green with paler green striations, the buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash. Its distinctive bottom with a circular ridge, though, gives it away. On some, the ridge may surround a more pronounced bump, or "turban." A freshly cut buttercup may smell like a clean, fragrant cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense, a bit dry, and very mild. According to the New Zealand Buttercup Squash Council - New Zealand Buttercup Squash is rich in beta carotene, with iron, vitamin C, potassium, and smaller traces of calcium, folic acid, and minute amounts of B vitamins. For a delicious and healthy Buttercup Squash recipe, click here.
 
 
butternut open by richard northButternut Squash - Butternut Squash, also known as Butternut Pumpkin or Gramma Pumpkin, has a slim neck and bulbous bottom giving it a distinctive bell shape. It has a muted yellow-tan rind and a bright orange-yellow flesh with a relatively sweet taste. Scientifically known as Cucurbita moschata, it was made by cross-breeding Gooseneck squash and Hubbard squash. The squash has a sweet nutty flavor that many people compare to pumpkin. At the bottom part of the “bell”, you can find a seed compartment, and these seeds are edible, and can be roasted, just like pumpkin seeds. As the squash ripens, the color of the flesh becomes even more orange and its sweetness increases. You should choose butternut squash that have a matte color to the skin, rather than a glossy coat, as this indicates that it was picked too early and will not be as sweet. Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. For a delicious and healthy Butternut Squash Soup recipe, click here.
 
 
carnival squash by lisa the waitressCarnival Squash - Carnival Squash is a hybrid of the sweet dumpling squash and the acorn squash. While the carnival squash's exterior resembles both of its relatives', its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Epicurious recommends using it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe. According to Specialty Produce, Carnival squash contains potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Additionally they offer some calcium, magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. For a delicious and healthy Carnival Squash Soup recipe, click here.
 
 
delicata by ilovebutterDelicata Squash, also known as the sweet potato squash or bohemian squash, has the creamy and soft consistency of a sweet potato. It has an earthier flavor that a sweet potato. It’s appearance most closely resembles summer squash. The thin skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. For a decorative effect, take advantage of this squash's ridges by slicing width-wise to create scalloped circles or halves; small- to medium-size delicatas work best. For a delicious and healthy Delicata Squash Recipe, click here.
 
 
kabocha - roasted by gloria cabada-lemanKabocha Squash - Kabocha Squash, also known as Japanese or Kent Pumpkin, is a squat looking fruit with a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It's similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in. While the green variety is relatively savory, the red kabocha is unmistakably sweeter. According to Organic Authority, Kabocha is a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins. In addition, Kobocha Squash is a good low-cal substitute for butternut squash. A single cup of kabocha has forty calories compared to butternut squash’s 60, and has less than half of the carbs of butternut squash (7 grams vs. 16 grams). Some claim it even tastes better than butternut. It can be used in all the same ways a butternut can. For a delicious and healthy Kabocha Squash Recipe, click here.
 
 
red kuri by frederique voisin-demeryRed Kuri Squash - Red Kuri Squash, also known as orange hokkaido, red hubbard, or potimarron, have an has an asymmetrical, lopsided look to them. And like the Blue Ballet variety, the red kuri is smaller and easier to handle. Its yellow flesh is smooth and has a chestnutlike flavor.Its texture is somewhere between the creamy and solid. It has a sweeter taste and richer orange red color compared to a pie pumpkin. This sweeter taste simply made the food look and taste even better! Red Kuri squash is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C as well as potassium and iron. For a delicious and healthy Red Kuri Squash recipe, click here.
 
 
sugar pumpkins by amy stephensonSugar Pumpkin - Sugar pumpkin, also known as the pie pumpkin, is small and squat. Sugar pumpkins are prized for their classic pumpkin flavor, as well as for their thick and flesh-packed walls. If you want to go for a “real” pumpkin pie, choose a sugar pumpkin over canned pumpkin. According to Nutrition and You.com, sugar pumpkins are very low in calories. They are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C, and vitamin-E. They are also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. And don’t forget pumpkin seeds! For a delicious and healthy Pumpkin Puree that can be used for pies, pastas, soups, etc., click here.  
 
 
spaghetti squash by rusty clarkSpaghetti Squash - Spaghetti Squash, also known as vegetable spaghetti or calabash, got its name from the stringy noodle-like consistency that it reveals when you scrape it’s flesh with a fork. Spaghetti squash is a mild tasting healthy alternative for pasta. It is a glutton free alternative that possesses lower calories and lower carbs than pasta. Spaghetti squash is not only low in carbohydrates but is also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and essential minerals. It also contains the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, and has potent antimicrobial properties. For a delicious and healthy Spaghetti Squash recipe, click here.
 
 
sweet dumpling by jess paleo grubsSweet Dumpling Squash – Sweet dumpling squash are whitish-yellow and green squash. They are small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size bowl for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like sweet potato, and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin. According to Specialty Produce.com, dumpling squash provides vitamin A, some of the B vitamins such as folate, riboflavin, and thiamin, and is a good source of fiber. Deep-colored orange-fleshed squashes such as the dumpling also offer a significant amount of beta-carotene. For a delicious and healthy Sweet Dumpling Squash Recipe, click here.
 
 
Take care of you and your family’s brains this autumn by including squash in every meal. For more information on mommy memory help please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


 
 

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