It’s that time of year and it’s starting to get cold outside, finally! While I love the heat and summer, I love the changes in seasons too. I love when it starts to get cold and we get that chill in the air, as that means gut nourishing soups make an appearance once more!
One such vegetable that is great to nourish the gut is winter squash. Winter squashes, or pumpkins, are a delicious and versatile vegetable. Butternut squash is generally available all year round, but other, more exotic looking squashes, are only really seen in the supermarkets around Halloween.
Nourishing your health
Squashes come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Which, when we’re looking at gut health and our immunity is a must. These vibrant colours tell us that they are packed full of antioxidants.
Free radicals are produced from various processes in the body and are a natural occurrence. They are highly unstable and in high amounts can cause oxidative stress in the body. This can lead onto chronic illnesses in time. Antioxidants, in a word, protect our healthy cells from any damage by free radicals by neutralising them.
Pumpkin contains the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and many others. These have been shown to have an anti-cancer protective quality.
Nourishing your gut
Squashes also are high in fiber, with an average of 3grams per serving. By leaving the skin on when cooking them helps to increase the fiber content and the nutrients too, as many nutrients are stored just under the skin.
Fiber is the food that are gut microbiome loves to feed on and so it nourishes the gut. So by adding in different fibers from different plants you are automatically supporting the diversity and growth of your microbiome. As 70% of our immunity lives in our gut, this is automatically supporting that too.
The average squash is jam packed full of nutrients. The main one is beta-carotene which is the precursor to Vitamin A. Studies of Vitamin A have shown that it supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin A is also essential for healthy skin. It can protect the skin from harmful UV rays from the sun.
Another vitamin that is found to be high in squashes is Vitamin C. This has also been shown to support immunity and is an essential vitamin for healthy skin too.
It is also high in potassium. It has been shown that people who have a high dietary intake of potassium have lower blood pressure and are at a lower risk of stroke.
Versatile and delicious
However, one of the main reasons I love winter squash is that it is so delicious and I can add it to anything. I frequently eat it as a roasted vegetable with a little seasoning as a side to my meal. It also keeps for the next day to have as a cold salad alongside whatever else I’m having.
It also tastes lovely in a stew or soup. Being both high in fiber and water, it retains its shape when cooking but is quick to cook.
The only drawback is that they have a very tough skin, so make sure your knives are sharp before cutting into one. Once you cut it, scoop out the seeds and any stringy parts, then slice the pumpkin into wedges to roast, or cubes to add to a stew or soup.
If you are a lover of squash and would like keep trying different types over the winter months, my recommendation would be to pre-cut them and freeze them so you have a supply long after they’ve left the shops. They freeze well and by pre-cutting them it means you can have a warming nutritious soup in minutes without all the bother of prepping. Your local farmers market may also have them for longer into the winter season.
Gut nourishing Squash Soup
If you’ve never tried pumpkin, other than to carve it for Halloween, why not try out my soup recipe below. I’ve used leeks and red onion, but you can add any leftover vegetables into it. I’ve also used buckwheat to add more plant fiber and a little crunch, but you could use barley or red lentils instead. The beans are adding some protein so that, along with all the fibre, this meal will have you full and nourished right up to dinner! I’ve served this alongside my gut nourishing bread.
Let me know in the comments below what you think and I’d love to hear what else you’ve used squash for.
Winter nourishing Squash Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 25 grams butter
- 1 Leek, chopped
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 kg squash, diced with skin on
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 750 ml vegetable stock
- 100 grams buckwheat grouts
- 1 tin cannellini beans, drained
- Wash the squash. Chop into cubes with a sharp knife.
- Chop the leek, dice the onion and grate / chop the garlic cloves.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan. Add the diced squash and cover with the lid to allow to sweat for 5 mins.
- Add the leeks, onion and garlic. Stir, cover and allow to sweat for 5 mins until the leeks and onion are soft.
- Add the ground cumin, stock and buckwheat grouts and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the buckwheat has fluffed up.
- Add the tin of cannellini beans and heat through for a further 5 minutes.
- Serve with some Gut nourishing bread for a deliciously filling lunch. Enjoy!