Seasonal Superfood Spotlight: Butternut Squash

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Move over zucchini, there’s a new seasonal favorite in my pantry… butternut squash! Like all members of the gourd family (which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds. It also compliments sweet dishes just as well as savory, so it can be a wonderfully versatile addition to winter kitchen staples.

Butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. Squash’s tangerine hue, however, indicates butternut’s most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. What’s more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C. As if this weren’t enough, butternut squash also has an anti-inflammatory effect because of its high antioxidant content.

Incorporating more of this hearty winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Try this Butternut Squash Soup to integrate more of this heart-healthy fruit today!

 

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Superfood Spotlight: Chia Seeds

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Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in southern Mexico. You may be familiar with the name as an ancient staple for the Aztec and Mayan diets, or much more likely, as a popular novelty item, the Chia Pet.

Chia seeds have long been known to have an abundance of essential nutrients. Here is a break down:

1. They are an excellent source of fiber, with a whopping 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons. Fiber is associated with reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol and regulating bowel function.

2. Chia seeds’ lipid profile is composed of 60 percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids

3. Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer.

4. Chia seeds have one of the highest levels of antioxidants in a whole food.

5. Chia is a wonderful source for calcium.  Three tablespoons contains 307 milligrams of calcium.

6. Chia seed is easily digested and does not need to be ground.

7. Chia seeds are often recommended for diabetics because the balance of soluble and insoluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose.

I also love Chia seeds because they make a great substitute for egg in vegan cooking or baking. Just add 1 Tablespoon of Chia seeds to 3 Tablespoons of water. In about 20 minutes, it will turn into a gel equivalent to one egg. Also, because it’s nutritional profile and stability, Chia seeds will store up to two years in a dry place. Use in baking, add to smoothies, or try this great pudding. Injoy!

Superfood Spotlight: Raw Cocoa

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Raw cocoa is known to be one of the most nutritious super foods on the planet. It is the highest plant source of magnesium, iron, chromium and manganese. It is also extremely high in zinc, copper and phosphorous, minerals that are greatly depleted by stress. In addition, it is recognized to be the #1 antioxidant in the world. 15 times higher than blueberries, 20 times higher than green tea and 30 times higher than red wine. Also, if you’re looking to get more dietary fiber into your daily consumption, raw cacao provides a whopping 9 grams per 1 ounce serving.

Now, lets be clear that the processed milk chocolate we find in the candy bar isle, while derived from the same plant, does not offer these same superfood benefits. A great way to include more raw cacao is to add it to a smoothie, or I sometimes sprinkle it onto a banana or spoonful of almond butter. Injoy!

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Seasonal Superfood Spotlight: Pumpkin Seeds!

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Don’t be too quick to toss the seeds after carving your pumpkin or making fresh pumpkin pie this fall! Pumpkin seeds are the richest plant source of the mineral zinc on the planet. Zinc is a vital nutrient in immune system support as well as the health of the digestive system and prostate. Just 1 3/4 oz of pumpkin seeds provides 3.2mg of zinc, over 1/3 of the recommended daily intake. In addition pumpkin seeds have a diverse antioxidant profile and are a great source of vitamin E. To maximize the benefits from these tasty seeds, I recommend eating the shell and all. The richest source of nutrients is concentrated in the membrane (endosperm envelope) that lines the inside of the shell, so it’s best to eat the fibrous husk as well. .

Try this Cilantro and pumpkin seed pesto over steamed vegetables and brown rice for a fantastic autumn supper. Or check out this recipe for strait up pumpkin seeds with a kick! Injoy!

      Cilantro and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 scallion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds

2 TBS water

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Chop garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance its health-promoting properties while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add olive oil a little at a time at end. You want the pesto to be blended yet not smooth. It is best with a little texture. Serve at room temperature. Do not heat it.

 

Seasonal Superfood Spotlight: Blackberries!

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One of my favorite experiences of northwest summertime is a stormy rainy day, followed by a beautiful, warm sunny day and the irresistibly primal urge that rises up and chases me out of the house. I just can’t stay inside! The grey day out of nowhere is like a reminder that life is short and our Seattle summer is even shorter. There is Vitamin D to soak up, warm grass to lay upon… plus it’s late August which means blackberries are in peak season!

Usually when the sunshine beckons I take the dogs for a walk or hop on my bicycle, today I grabbed a bucket. In the neighborhood in North Seattle where I used to live there is a large park with massive blackberry brambles lining the parameter. More berries than you could ever hope to pick. I spent about 2 hours plucking. 3 for the bucket, 1 for my belly, ending up with a solid 8 cups of plump juicy berries.

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Along with the beauty and allure, not to mention their succulent deliciousness, blackberries are a true superfood. As with other kinds of bush berries, blackberries too are packed with numerous plant nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and dietary fibers that are essential for optimum health. Their deep purple skins are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and they are an excellent source of Vitamin C Further, blackberries contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Copper is required in the bone metabolism as well as in production of white and red blood cells.

It’s a great time to celebrate these wild berries and find a spot to forage. While I have great ambitions of taking these gems and making a delicious pie or perhaps some gluten free muffins, who am I kidding? Really. Many more will be gone before I get home and it’s unlikely the rest will not last until the end of the day. Looks like I’ll have to come back tomorrow!

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