Although mostly used as a autumn decoration the mildly sweet flavored and finely textured winter squash is starting to gain popularity once again in American cuisine. Winter squash was a immensely important part of the diet of Native Americans. So much so that they buried it along with the dead to provide them with nourishment on their final journey. Winter squash is available from August though March, but they are at their best from October to November. Winter squash come in many varieties and each type varies in shape, size, color and flavor. Varieties of winter squash include butternut squash, acorn squash, Hubbard squash, turban squash and everyone‘s favorite Halloween tradition, pumpkin. All varieties have hard protective skins that are difficult to pierce which provides winter squash with the ability to have a long storage life of up to six months. Winter squash is full of nutrients, with vitamins A and C being most abundant, and provide a host of health benefits.
Winter squash, as above mentioned, is an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash is also a good source of foliate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and patothenic acid. A well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, beta-carotene, is also available in abundance in winter squash. Beta-carotene is able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body thereby decreasing the buildup on blood vessels and decreasing the risk of heart attack. Studies have also shown that a good intake of beta-carotene can also help reduce the risk of colon cancer, by possibly protecting colon cells from cancer causing chemicals.
Other nutrients found in winter squash are also useful for a variety of conditions. The potassium found in winter squash may help lower blood pressure. The vitamin C may be able to reduce the severity of conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fiber helps to control weight, support digestive health, fight heart disease, and colon cancer. The folate found in winter squash may also help prevent birth defects.
Winter squash also helps to support men‘s health. In research studies, extracts from squash have been found to reduce symptoms of a condition occurring in men called benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH. With this condition the prostate gland becomes enlarged causing a host of problems in men. In combination with other phytonutrient containing foods, squash may be helpful in reducing symptoms of BPH.
Winter squash’s nutrients also have healthy scalp and hair benefits thanks to the numerous vitamins and minerals as well as the omega-3 fatty acids. Although there are plenty of hair supplements available we should always try to get hair (and health) friendly nutrients though our diet and adding winter squash to your dinner tables this fall is one food that will help you do so. Be it baked in pies, pureed or added to soup, only 1 cup of winter squash is packed full of nutrients to promote overall optimal health.
Exercising In Cold Weather
With autumn officially upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to start thinking ahead to the colder months and the things that you can do to stay safe if planning on exercising or spending time outdoors this fall and winter. Most people don’t realize that exercising in cold weather can be just as dangerous as exercising in hot weather. The biggest concern for exercising in the cold is hypothermia, or too much heat loss. When exercising in a cold environment you must consider one primary factor: How much heat will your body lose during exercise? One of the easiest ways to control heat loss is though insulation.
Clothing is generally a good insulator because it has the ability to trap air which is a poor conductor of heat. If the air trapped by the clothing cannot conduct heat away from the body, temperature will be maintained. However, water is a rapid conductor of heat and people will of course sweat while working out, even in cold temperatures. With this is mind, you want to choose clothing that can trap air but allow sweat to pass though and away from the body. It is important to avoid heavy cotton sweats or tightly woven material that will absorb and retain water. These materials cannot provide a layer of dry air near the skin and they can increase the amount of heat your body loses as you exercise. Also keeping hands and feet warm is also important when out in the cold. Lower temperatures can cause blood to be rerouted to the core of the body to protect and keep internal organs warm. This rerouting of the blood can cause tissue damage in the extremities. So keeping the body’s temperature stable throughout the entire body is important.
Rules to remember when exercising in the cold:
- Check the temperature and wind conditions before you go out and do not exercise if conditions are dangerous. Your better option might be heading to the gym or working out in the warmth and comfort of your home.
- Keep your head, hands and feet warm.
- Dress in layers that can provide a trapped layer of dry air near the skin.
- Warm the air you are breathing if temperatures are below your comfort level. This can be done by wearing a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth.
Regardless of if you’re working out in the cold or taking a fall stroll or enjoying the first snowball fight of the season, these tips will help keep you safe and moving. Until next week…