Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
If your ears perk up when someone mentions the latest pumpkin recipe they’ve found, there’s good reason. Turns out the seasonal gourd is as healthy for your hearing as it is pleasing for your taste buds. In fact, pumpkins are only one of several seasonal foods your ears will thank you for eating this fall.
Pumpkins and winter squash
Pumpkins and winter squash are much more than trendy decorations for your doorstep or holiday table — they’re also an effective way to add hearing healthy nutrients to your diet. Here’s why:
- Vitamin A – This nutrient supports your immune system, and pumpkin has 200% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). A healthy immune system helps keep infection-causing bacteria at bay — including the kind that causes ear infections. Although most ear infections heal on their own, they can be painful and cause temporary hearing loss.
- Vitamin C – Antioxidant vitamin C protects you against free radicals. These naturally occurring little villains of the atom world scavenge the body in search of electrons to pair with, causing damage to cells, protein and DNA along the way. Antioxidants like vitamin C help prevent the assault, protecting the delicate cellular structure of the inner ear.
- Folate – A water-soluble member of the vitamin B family, folate plays a big role in cellular metabolism, the nervous system and vascular function — all which are important to the auditory system. Research published in the December 2010 issue of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery suggests high frequency hearing loss may be related to low levels of folic acid.
If you’re not a fan of pumpkin pie, or just tired of eating it that way, SparkPeople.com has ten other suggestions for you to try. For example, consider making a pumpkin smoothie, pasta sauce, cream cheese spread or ice cream.
As for winter squash, their skins might be tough to penetrate but it’s worth the extra effort. Soften spaghetti squash in the microwave before cutting it in half to bake it or look in your grocer’s produce section for ready-to-roast cubes of butternut squash.
It doesn’t seem like fall without a crop of crisp, fresh apples to eat. Loaded with vitamin C and with almost no sodium, fat or cholesterol, the nutritional benefits of apples benefit your cardiovascular system as well as reduce your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke and asthma.
Whether you choose them from your local grocer or farmer’s market or pick them yourself at the orchard, you’ll be doing your ears a favor by adding them to your diet this season. Here’s why:
- Vitamins A and C – Found also in winter squash, these vitamins support the immune system and provide antioxidants which protect the delicate structure of the inner ear from free radicals.
- Potassium – This mineral is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your body. That’s especially important for the fluid-filled inner ear, which depends upon a plentiful supply of potassium to translate the noises your ears collect into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as sound.
What’s the best way to eat an apple? They fit in the palm of your hand for a reason – they’re the perfect portable snack. Since the majority of nutrients lie just beneath the skin, you’ll get the most benefit if you refrain from peeling them.
Dark leafy greens
Remember the folates in winter squash? Dark green, leafy vegetables have them in spades, along with a healthy dose of vitamins A and C. Gone are the days when your only salad options included those made with bland iceberg lettuce. Don’t be afraid to choose these healthy, flavorful alternatives. Greens are easily grown in home gardens and are plentiful at farmer’s markets, on better restaurant menus and in the produce section of your local grocer.
- Spinach – In addition to the vitamins and antioxidants which protect your hearing, spinach also has zinc, an important mineral known for boosting the immune system.
- Kale – There are many flavorful varieties of kale to choose from, all of which have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. A study published in the 2014 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women.
- Arugula – Also known as rocket salad, this versatile green can be used as an herb or a lettuce to add a zesty, peppery taste to salads, omelets, sandwiches, pizzas and pasta. Like its leafy green cousins, it packs a nutritional punch of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals proven to protect hearing health.
Of course, these tasty fall vegetables are just part of the healthy hearing recipe. In addition to eating a balanced diet, exercise regularly. Protect your hearing from loud and excessive noise. Also, have your hearing evaluated regularly by a qualified hearing healthcare professional. Mixed together, these ingredients can help you hear your best in every season.