With the passing of Labor Day, we move quickly into the fall season. School is back in session, temperatures begin their slow decline, and certain foods are more plentiful. Healthy, hearty vegetable options become available at local farmers markets and grocery stores. These offerings provide an avenue to boost our health before the transition into winter months.
Some of the more popular items are the winter squash. Included in this group are acorn, spaghetti, butternut, Hubbard and kabocha squashes, and pumpkin. All are rich sources of vitamin A and C to boost immunity and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation. Pumpkin is loaded with potassium and provides 20 percent of your daily fiber needs. It is also a good source of multiple B vitamins. Pumpkin may also help metabolize fats, proteins and carbs that are stored in the body as fat -- especially belly fat.
Mushrooms are also found in abundance this time of year. These edible fungi are packed with health enhancing properties. The vitamin D found in mushrooms aids strong teeth, bones and immunity. Additionally, it has been shown to affect depression and cardio palpitations. The B vitamins specific to mushrooms aid red blood cell formation, nerves, digestion, skin and hormone production. Additionally, the selenium is a powerful antioxidant, helps male fertility, and plays roles in thyroid, cardiovascular and anticancer health. Likewise, the potassium in mushrooms supports nerves, muscles, heart function and helps control blood pressure. Furthermore, the beta-glucans are immunity stimulating and may help create a resistance to allergies. Some research also indicates beta-glucans play a role in fat and sugar metabolism in the body.
Another member of the fall crop is cauliflower. Just as spaghetti squash makes a good substitute for noodles, cauliflower is also a versatile veggie. It swaps for carb-laden or starchy foods. How? You can mash and whip it as you would potatoes. Or rice it and use as a base for Asian foods. Separate the florets and make a substitute "noodle" for mac-n-cheese. No mater how you prepare it, we know it is high in antioxidants that may reduce some cancer risks. Cauliflower is considered a weight loss veggie, as it helps you feel fuller longer.
Finally, 'tis the season for apples! Apples are high in fiber and packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C is best known for immunity boosting. However, it is also vital to keeping gums healthy and healing wounds. It is essential for collagen production in the body. An apple's flavonoids can help prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation and reducing atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Please keep in mind, the majority of the apple's nutrients are found in the skin. Wash your apples thoroughly or purchase organic.
Any way you look at it, fall foods are health enhancing foods! So, dig in and enjoy a taste of fall!
HEALTHY LIFE RECIPE
PUMPKIN-OAT PANCAKES (gluten-free)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup milk of choice
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter), melted
1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1 small lemon, juiced)
1 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
Stir together the pumpkin puree, milk, coconut oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and vanilla. Beat in the eggs.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. With a big spoon, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Do not overmix! Let the batter sit for 10 minutes.
Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the surface of your pan with coconut oil, butter or cooking spray.
Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook for about 3 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake
Once the underside is lightly golden, flip it with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point. Serve the pancakes immediately.
Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for over 30 years. Core to her practice remains use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master's degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.