Winter Squash

Health Wellness

Seeing a variety of winter squash at the markets is a clear indication that Autumn is here. The array of shapes and sizes bring back comforting, childhood memories of changing leaves that would blanket the neighborhoods and rolling hills. However, while the vibrant red, orange and yellow Autumn leaves don’t last long, the presence of the winter squash last through winter. They have absorbed the sun’s energy through the summer season and continue to provide warmth and comfort through colder winter season. In the practice of Ayurveda, the stored energy is considered to be a warm ojas, which is essential energy that is responsible for vitality, strength, health and wellness.

Winter squash are sweet in flavor and range from a moderate to medium-heavy flavor essence. Similar to Ayurveda, Chinese medicine considers squash to be a warm sweet vegetable (although technically they are fruit.) They are high in complex carbohydrates, which makes their sweetness safe for diabetics.

Winter squash are hearty yet also help drain excess fluids due to being a mild diuretic. They also have a good amount of fiber, which promotes regularity and maintenance of a healthy digestive tract by supporting healthy gut bacteria. Winter squash is loaded with vitamin A (deep orange color = high in carotenes) which is important for healthy eyesight. The carotenes combined with the sweetness make them a good blood and liver tonic. Winter squash also contains a good amount of potassium (decreases blood pressure) and vitamin C (boosts immune function) as well as other key nutrients that promote healthy bones, skin and hair and reduce inflammation.

They can be used in sweet or savory dishes, but I prefer the latter. My personal favorites are kabocha and butternut.

Shared recipes:
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Roasted Butternut Squash with Poblano Pepper

 

 

Dried Orange Peel

Dried Orange Peel

Mise en place Wellness

Dried Orange Peel: Before you peel or cut your organic oranges, remove the thin strips with a peeler. Place the strips separately on a towel/paper towel in an open dish. Leave them out to dry for 3-4 days. Once they are completely dry, put them airtight jar.  Dried orange peels have a deep flavor which are a great ingredient for savory or sweet recipes. You can zest or grind the peels or add them whole into sauces or stews.

For my autumn-winter smoothies, which during the cooler temperatures I consume close to room temperature, I toss in half an orange strip, a generous amount of cinnamon and at least a 1/2-inch slice of ginger. Orange peel helps improve digestion and sluggishness in the gut, and ginger and cinnamon are both warming spices that make the smoothie more digestible during the season.

Get Regular Smoothie

Get Regular Smoothie

Beverage Recipe

Lemon serves as a tonic for the liver and can aid in daily digestion. That, combined with the fiber in this smoothie can help things get back on track. This also has a good dose of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system.

  • ­­­­2 plums
  • 2 dates
  • Juice of 1 lemon plus zest from ½ of lemon
  • Handful of hazelnuts
  • 1-2 kale leaves
  • 2-3 inch cucumber slice
  • 1 celery stalk
  • Protein power
  • Splash nut milk
  • Water to desired consistency
  • Greens powder (optional)

Blend and enjoy!

Eggplant

Health Wellness

I didn’t learn to appreciate eggplants until my 30’s. My initial exposure to eating eggplant was in heavier dishes, such as eggplant parmesan or moussaka. I wasn’t able to recognize or appreciate the flavor until trying baba ganoush. It took me awhile to experiment with making and cooking eggplant dishes, but now I try to make something with eggplant about twice a month when they are in season.

A kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato, the eggplant is a nightshade that grows hanging from the vines of a plant. It is technically a fruit but is classified as a vegetable. The eggplant tastes bitter and slightly sweet (but it slows the absorption of blood sugar and is a useful regulator of glucose and insulin activity in the body.) Ayurveda considers it as heating. Chinese medicine considers it to be cooling (clearing heat) and to remove blood stagnation.

As for nutrients, eggplants are an overall source of many vitamins and minerals. They contain fiber, folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, and vitamins C, K and B6. Eggplants are also loaded with antioxidants, which are known to help defend a variety of diseases and conditions. One study found that eggplant skin is loaded with a potent phytonutrient and antioxidant called nasusin, which is an antioxidant that protects brain cells from free radicals and damage.

While eggplants contain decent amount of fiber, for some eggplants can irritate the digestive tract and are recommended to reduce or avoid if you have GI tract inflammation.

Shared recipes: Stuffed Eggplant

Anti-inflammatory Smoothie

Anti-inflammatory Smoothie

Beverage Recipe

This anti-inflammatory smoothie (pear, ginger, turmeric, greens, vitamin C) has a slight kick for digestion with the ginger. The cucumber and pear balance the digestive fire and add cooling properties that can be great for warmer weather or after a post-workout sweat.

  • ­­­­½ or more inch slice ginger
  • ¼ – ½ inch slice turmeric (or ½ tsp ground)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pear
  • 3-inch cucumber slice
  • Juice of ½ to 1 lemon
  • Small handful of almonds
  • Handful of spinach
  • 7-10 mint leaves
  • Protein power
  • Splash water or orange juice

I like to occasionally add a generous pinch of cardamom or cinnamon. You can add a greens powder to this if you like. If you have issue with the pea-green color, skip the spinach.

Enjoy!

Balanced Breakfast Smoothie

Balanced Breakfast Smoothie

Beverage Recipe

This smoothie is good morning post-practice/workout fuel, and it carries me until the end of lunchtime teaching. It’s tridoshic and has a touch of everything: anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, detoxicants, protein, minerals, fiber and water regulators.

  • ­­­­Handful of spinach
  • 1-2 leaves kale or chard
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 5-7 mint leaves
  • 1-inch cucumber slice
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 3 figs
  • Scant cup watermelon
  • 2 Tbs rolled oats
  • Protein power
  • Splash almond milk or water
  • Greens powder (optional)
  • Cinnamon (optional)

Blend and enjoy!

Tomatoes

Health Wellness

There are different philosophies on tomatoes. Here is a brief summary. Ayurveda (but not all Ayurvedic nutritionists) advises not eating them, since the cause toxic build-up and stimulate heat and desire. Chinese medicine claims tomatoes can cool the blood on hot days. Those in the Mediterranean embrace the tomato, where apparently in the northern part of Europe the tomato is considered by some to be poisonous. Take your pick.

 

Tomatoes are acidic, meaning they are stimulating and sour. To some, tomatoes can irritate the digestive tract and are recommended to avoid if you have GI tract inflammation. These irritating qualities can be enhanced when cooked or sun-dried, since the flavors become more pungent and hot. The tomato flesh in general is easy to digest, and the seeds and skins can be irritating for some.

As for nutritional value, tomatoes have a high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene. It also has high levels of potassium and vitamins C, K and A, along with others.

I personally embrace them, but also eat them in balanced quantities. Tomatoes can aggravatePitta in the digestive tract. However, their cooling properties are refreshing on warm days. My personal favorite is the Early Girl tomato. I don’t have a problem grabbing and taking a bite in Early Girl tomatoes. They are juicy and have a sweetness that makes my mouth water.

Shared recipes: Cretan Dakos