Nutrition

SEPTEMBER TASTEBUDS

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Summertime, Labor Day, juicy tomatoes, and watermelon salads are just about in our rear view mirror, and it’s all Pumpkin Spice lattes (and candles, and laundry detergent wtf) as far as the eye can see. The cooler temperatures and back to school vibe are affecting my cravings for different ingredients, and I love to turn to what’s seasonal. Here are a few great foods to toss into your fall salads and weeknight dinners this month to embrace autumn’s arrival.

Figs

In August and September, it’s all about figs. If you’re not using them in your salads, baked goods, and breakfasts you’re seriously missing out. Figs are antioxidant rich, high in calcium and iron, and super high in fiber. I recently discovered grilling figs to add to salads and it’s a great blend of sweet and smoky.

Prickly Pear

This funky cactus ingredient is said to counteract inflammation and act as a hangover cure… sign me up. It’s high in fiber and carotenoids. These guys are all over my hood but you can often find prickly pear (or cactus pear) at farmers markets or natural food markets, and it’s great peeled and raw or added to smoothies for added natural sweetness. Remember to wear gloves as you slice and peel them to not end up with spines in your fingers!

Butternut Squash

Roasted squash has to be the heartiest, most delicious, smoothest ingredient I look forward to the minute the temperature drops below 70 degrees. It’s the simplest way to make any greens into a meal, with or without additional proteins. Eating antioxidant rich foods, like squash, has been said to aid memory recall and preserve mental acuity as we age so I’m keeping this half-sweet half-savory nutrient dense squash in my regular rotation this fall.


Sunchokes

In North America, sunchoke season begins technically in October so I’m prepping myself in anticipation of these tubers. They’re high in potassium, iron, and protein and they’re known to aid blood pressure regulation. They’re slightly nutty and a little sweet, and are great sliced thin and added to salads, baked, or sautéed and made into soups. Remember when we talked about prebiotics the other week? This is a good one!

Tell me what you’re cooking up this fall to stay warm but also keeping it high and tight! Sound off and share your favorite seasonal recipes in our facebook group too.

BUZZY INGREDIENTS

Image via IG    @gabbois

Image via IG @gabbois

I think we can all agree that more greens and fewer items that come from the middle, highly processed aisles of the grocery store are key to a healthier diet. I definitely subscribe to a KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach with food, but I also am fascinated by the science of nutrition and alternative approaches and fun ingredients. Sometimes, technical food terms can get complex so I wanted to break down a few food-related buzzwords and my thoughts on each: probiotics, probiotics, adaptogens, and fermentation.

A prebiotic is an ingredient that our bodies cannot digest and stimulates growth of positive microorganisms inside. A probiotic is a live microorganism like bacteria similar to those in our body already that we ingest for healthy gut benefits. They have been shown to aid in digestion.

The use of prebiotics and probiotics together to benefit gut health is called microbiome therapy. You don’t need to ingest a prebiotic for probiotics to work, but eating them through foods or a doctor-approved dietary supplement might make your probiotics more effective. Prebiotics act as a food for probiotics, and they can be found in fiber-filled foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Probiotics occur naturally in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and tempeh. So far, there’s been less scientific research on the benefits of prebiotics than probiotics. A happy gut means a better immune system, better sleep, better mood, and overall positive health.

In herbal medicine, adaptogens are a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Common examples of adaptogens are ginseng, licorice, rosemary and aloe vera. Eastern medicine and Ayurvedic traditions incorporate adaptogenic herbs in their healing practices, and they are becoming more common now in a western market. By regulating hormones, adaptogens promote healthy weight maintenance, encourage proper immune system function, can act as an antidepressant, and are can protect against nerve degeneration.

Personally, I like to use ashwaganda & maca in smoothies for their adaptogenic qualities. I swear by Moon Juice’s product line. Ashwaganda is said to relieve stress and increase your ability to concentrate and focus. Maca powder helps to regulate mood swings and increase libido, so into the smoothie it goes!

The final buzzy food practice I want to cover is fermentation. This is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms like yeasts or bacteria. Fermentation and microbiome therapy go hand in hand, since fermenting food promotes the growth of good bacteria, aka probiotics. My favorite fermented food to use in recipes lately is kimchi, which helps with digestion, reduces cholesterol levels, gives you shinier hair… do I have to continue? 

Look out soon for my kimchi taco recipe to reap the benefits of a nutrient dense and delicious fermented food.