Have you been walking by the winter squash at your local grocery because they just seem like too much work?
Maybe you didn’t realize they are packed with good nutrition that can support healthy hormone function and immune health - important during the years of (peri) menopause.
I know they’re intimidating. The mounds of colorful, tough-skinned squash and gourds arranged in boxes outside the automatic grocery doors as their more approachable, thin-skinned cousins nestle in their cozy produce-aisle beds.
There’s no doubt that members of the Cucurbitaceae family, notably pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, are beautiful, if not interesting, ornamental works of Mother Nature. But it seems that many are destined to be arranged on the front stoop of every suburban home from November through December.
Underneath their colorful, sometimes rough, exteriors is nutrient-dense flesh that does really well in soups – it's just the right amount of starch to yield a creamy texture.
Of course straight up baking or roasting your squash is always an option. Many varieties have edible skins and do not need to be peeled.
Roasted squash is delicious added to salads or puréed squash to baked goods.
Here are top picks for edible varieties - you can leave the ornamental varieties at the door.
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, kabocha squash has green skin, orange flesh, and a shape similar to pumpkin. The flesh is super sweet when cooked and is rich in beta-carotene - 1 cup has more than 200% DV of vitamin A!
One role of Vitamin A is its support for optimal thyroid function. Research has shown that vitamin A with iodine deficiencies aggravates thyroid dysfunction. According to EndocrineWeb 10% of women have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. Supporting your thyroid with the addition of vitamin A rich foods may help you to feel your best.
Before preparing for cooking, place whole squash in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes to soften the skin – it will make cutting, peeling, and chopping an easier and much safer experience. Try using kabocha in place of the butternut squash in your favorite soup.
Acorn squash varies in color from dark green to tie-dyed green with orange shades. The flesh is less sweet than kabocha and is more yellow than orange. Just one cup provides more than 25% DV of vitamin C.
In times of stress, which is chronic for so many women today, your body has a higher need for vitamin C to produce stress hormones. This increased demand for vitamin C means that incorporating extra vitamin C into your diet will help your body to work its best.
You can soften the squash if needed by heating in the oven, although it is small enough that this may not be needed.
Trim the top from each squash, invert on the cutting board, and slice from bottom to top to create two halves. Remove seeds. You can bake the halves with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of maple syrup for 30 minutes at 350°F – an excellent side dish. You can also slice into half moons to prepare for roasting.
Sugar pumpkins look a lot like carving pumpkins so be sure to select those marked especially for cooking. They are sweeter than those cultivated for jack-o-lantern displays. The best way to cook the flesh is to roast the entire pumpkin – this allows the flesh to remain moist and helps the sugars to develop. Remove stem from pumpkin, rinse, and make several slits through the skin with a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for about an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cooled. Cut the top portion off [around where the stem would be], remove seeds, and scoop out flesh. You can add pumpkin to hummus or stir into yogurt. Of course, you can always use it for baking!
Probably on the top of the list for ease of preparation!
Delicata squash has a mild, nutty flavor, firm flesh, and thin edible skin. Preparing this variety could not be simpler: rinse, cut in half, remove seeds, slice into half-moons, toss with some olive oil and salt and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes until browned. Delicious enough to eat on their own as a fiber-rich snack!
Now that you’ll be making squash regularly, you might be wondering, what can I do with all these seeds?
Food companies have made it their business to repurpose this compost-worthy waste into delicious edible snacks – but you can do this too!
Rinse any remaining flesh from seeds and lay out on paper towels to dry.
For savory, toss with a bit of olive oil, seasoning of choice, and salt and pepper to taste.
For sweet, toss with a bit of melted coconut oil, a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon or other spice, and a pinch of salt.
Sweet and savory - why not! All combinations are on the table, including adding a little kick with some cayenne pepper.
Roast seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Enjoy as a snack or topping for salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or chia pudding.
Slow Cooker Acorn Squash Stew
1 pound acorn squash peeled and chopped
1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 - 14.5 ounce can tomatoes diced, undrained
½ cup quinoa, rinsed
1/3 cup raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 - 14 ounce can chicken or vegetable broth
In a slow cooker combine all the ingredients except the broth. Toss to mix thoroughly. Poor broth over vegetable mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours or high heat 2 ½ to 3 hours.
If you are looking for support to maximize your diet and lifestyle to create a joyful menopause - make these years the best of your life - contact Lynda today!