Fall is in the air! I love this time of year when the air is crisp and farmers markets are bursting with all sorts of harvest time treasures. It is the time of year when we begin to think about packing away foods to sustain us through the winter.
Nuts and seeds have been part of these preparations for thousands of years. Pumpkin seeds, specifically, have been a coveted source of nutrition dating back to the ancient Greeks and Native Americans, partly because these little powerhouses actually rise in protein value as they age. Long recognized for their nutritional and health benefits, pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are experiencing a well-deserved resurgence in popularity. Women with PCOS should especially consider adding these tiny powerhouses to their PCOS diet.
Like me, many women with PCOS suffer from hirsutism, or male pattern hair growth. This unwanted hair on the face or arms, legs, etc. combined with thinning scalp hair can be frustrating and embarrassing. Pumpkin seeds can possibly help reduce these symptoms. They contain beta-sitosterol which inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT which can help reduce hair loss as well as lower cholesterol.
Pumpkin seeds also contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our bodies need. These EFAs help regulate hormone function, improve hair, skin and nails, lower insulin levels, stabilize blood sugars, and help regulate periods. This makes pumpkin seeds a super food for women with PCOS.
Magnesium may not be something you think about every day, but your body needs it for energy, heart, bone and tooth health as well as proper bowel function. One quarter cup of these seeds contains nearly half of your daily requirement of Magnesium!
You may already know that Zinc is important at this time of year for preventing colds and the flu as well as protecting against osteoporosis. You may not know that pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc which also helps regulate your sleep, moods, insulin, and even your senses of taste and smell!
Sleep is something we all need, and few of us ever seem to get enough of it. Believe it or not, pumpkin seeds can help. They are a rich source of tryptophan which your body converts into serotonin and then melatonin to help you sleep and reduce depression. This is particularly effective if you combine pumpkins seeds with a small piece of fruit for a snack a few hours before bed.
Beyond all of these benefits, pumpkin seeds are a fantastic source of vitamins A, E, K and B, protein, fiber, iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and antioxidants. Research indicates that they can even reduce inflammation caused by arthritis and prevent some kidney stones. Every diva knows that any time you can improve your health by improving your diet instead of taking medications, your body wins!
You can easily find pumpkin seeds at your grocery store. If you go that route, be sure to buy organic raw seeds that smell fresh and are not musty. Alternatively, you can harvest your own from a fresh pumpkin. Simply remove the seeds and wipe them with a paper towel to remove any pulp. Then spread them evenly over a paper bag or towel and allow them to dry overnight. Finally, bake them in an oven on very low heat (about 160-170 degrees) for no more than 20 minutes.
I like to toss salted, shelled pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) with a little sesame oil and Chinese five-spice powder and then I bake them at 350 until crisp.
Embrace the fruits of the season and try some pumpkin seeds for an easy on-the-go snack or sprinkled on a salad, soup, or oatmeal as a new flavor in your PCOS diet. You may find that they become your go-to power boost!