Let it be known, I love pumpkins. All of them. In every way I can get them. I don't even care if the pumpkin pie spice stuff is all over them or not, I just love pumpkins.
Imagine how excited I was then to learn about how helpful pumpkins and their seeds are to some of the struggles I've been facing with my hormonal health. They hit so many of the points I was trying to address -- including mood, skin health, normal cycles, digestion -- and I was more than ready to slap more squash and seeds into my meals.
You might already have figured out that pumpkins can be great for your skin due to their bright orange hue. That's the Vitamin A, one of the powerful nutrients responsible for immunity and skin health. You might not have known that squash varieties of all colors also pack in a good deal of Vitamins C and E, which are both helpful for maintaining skin health and a strong immune system.
Wait, though! Don't toss the seeds! Squash seeds are super high in Zinc, which if you're struggling with hormonal acne, can be a tremendous help. You can take the ones from your baked squash or buy the shelled yummy kinds (sometimes called pepitas) to have as a snack alone or mixed with other nuts and dried fruits and sprinkle them on top of cereals and salads.
Pumpkin is also really high in fiber, which can play a two-part role in hormonal health, especially if you are struggling with estrogen dominance or PCOS. Estrogen can build up in the body for a number of reasons (stress, diet changes, environmental factors, changes in birth control, age, medicines), which can cause a host of uncomfortable and even dangerous symptoms. Acne along the jawline and mouth, increased hair growth on face and head hair loss, weight gain ... these are often the things folks start complaining of first when dealing with estrogen levels rising. It's not that pumpkin and it's seeds alone will cure you, but adding such high zinc and high fiber foods to your regular diet can help keep your digestion in peak form, which will help move the excess estrogen out of your body so it doesn't recirculate in the liver and cause some of these issues. The seeds can offer an extra bonus -- they strongly help regulate insulin absorption in the gut, which can be a huge issue in folks with PCOS.
Squash is also one of those veggies which contains a good deal of iron, which is ultra important for vegan and vegetarian folks and those of us who menstruate. Combining squash with high Vitamin C foods like leafy greens, red peppers, and tomatoes will help further the absorption of the iron in your pumpkin dishes.
Here are some ideas for how you can get more squash and seeds into your diet:
Granola with Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Yogurt (make sure it has actual pumpkin in it and not just the spices)
I often buy 3-4 winter squash in one go and bake them all at once in a few different ways. Some are baked whole for longer so I can scoop the softer pulp out for soups and and sweeter dishes (and my dog loves eating the soft skin after -- good for his digestion and skin too!). Some I pre-slice so their ready to add to salads and sandwiches. I cube some along with sweet potatoes to have in stir fry or as a side dish for a main course. I try and process the seeds at the same time, rinsing the pulp off and baking them with a tiny bit of salt to have as a snack I just leave out on my counter to munch on throughout the day.
Squash, even organic and local varieties, are hardy and prevalent in most areas and so they also tend to be fairly inexpensive. Hurrah!