Pumpkins are more than a fun decoration for Halloween. Here’s how this squash can improve your gut health this fall. Every part of the pumpkin, from its flesh to its seeds, can be eaten in one way or another. And these squashes are loaded with gut-healthy nutrients like iron, fiber, and magnesium.
Below are five ways pumpkin improves gut health.
1. Promote bowel regularity
Pumpkin is an excellent source of fibre, and its flesh is particularly rich in soluble fibre. Soluble fiber is unique in that it can improve both constipation and diarrhea, normalizing bowel function overall. Soluble fiber retains water in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, forming a viscous gel. This gelling property promotes fuller, well-formed stools. To improve diarrhea, soluble fiber slows gastrointestinal transit time, which means food moves more slowly through the digestive tract, absorbing water. On the other hand, soluble fiber also serves as a bulking agent, which can help relieve constipation.
If you have trouble going to the bathroom, you should think twice before throwing away the pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest sources of magnesium, a mineral that improves constipation. Interestingly, research published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition in December 2021 found that people who consumed more magnesium through their diets were less likely to suffer from chronic constipation. In fact, magnesium’s ability to promote bowel regularity is so well recognized that high doses of this mineral are included in many over-the-counter laxatives.
Magnesium supplements have an osmotic effect, drawing water into the gut to increase stool bulk and boost stool motility, according to research published in the journal Nutrients in February 2021. If your dietary magnesium intake is insufficient, you are more likely to suffer from constipation, but incorporating pumpkin seeds into meals and snacks can help cover your needs.
2. Promotes a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Soluble fiber, like that found in pumpkin flesh, has well-established prebiotic properties, meaning it serves as food for friendly gut microbes to support a healthy gut microbiome. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients in March 2020, most soluble fiber is fermented by these beneficial gut microbes, which produce anti-inflammatory compounds called short-chain fatty acids as a byproduct.
Short-chain fatty acids nourish the cells that line our colon and are believed to strengthen the intestinal barrier. Additionally, changes in the gut microbiome that occur with a higher fiber diet are specifically associated with lower levels of gut inflammation and a decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to published research. in the Crohn’s & Colitis 360 review in January 2020.
3. Promotes Healthy Digestion
Potassium is an essential mineral that your body needs to function properly. This electrolyte sends signals to your brain, causing the muscles in your intestines to contract in a process known as peristalsis. Peristalsis pushes food through the intestines, allowing for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination. This is why low potassium levels can lead to constipation, as peristalsis weakens. When you think of potassium-rich foods, bananas might come to mind, but a cup of cooked pumpkin actually contains more potassium than a banana, providing about 11% of the Daily Value.
4. Promotes Gut Wall Health
The flesh and seeds of the pumpkin are rich in certain nutrients needed to maintain a healthy intestinal wall. Pumpkin flesh is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted into vitamin A in our body. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are an excellent source of zinc, which supports immune function and helps maintain healthy body tissues. According to research published in the American Journal of Physiology in November 2020, vitamin A and zinc both play a role in maintaining a healthy intestinal barrier, preventing food particles and bacteria from escaping the intestinal tract. and cause inflammation.
Take advantage of pumpkin season by roasting it with a hint of cinnamon as a festive side dish, adding pumpkin puree to seasonal soups and smoothies, or making a hearty homemade granola with pumpkin seeds. Your taste buds and stomach will thank you.