Flavors of Fall

Apples, pumpkins offer tasty nutrition

image of soup
For more recipes and nutrition tips, please visit Cancer Nutrition Services' web site Making Every Bite Count.

By Joan Daniels, R.D., and Nancy Burke, R.D. U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Dietitians

As the days get shorter and the air grows crisp, we start to crave those fall classics: apples and pumpkins. Long gone are the last hot days of summer -- the ones when we're too tired to do much more than sink into a pile of berries or slurp up the juice of a soft tomato. Cool air refreshes and leaves us aching for something more toothsome.

And that's where the apple and pumpkin come in. We're using the term "pumpkin" here in its broadest sense: We're not talking about your Halloween jack-o'-lantern, but the wide variety of squash that are available throughout the fall and winter months.

Squash and apples offer a host of healthy nutrients. The rich yellow and orange flesh of the squash signals the presence of carotenoids, protective phytochemicals that play an anti-cancer role and enhance immunity. Squash also contain Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

When to go organic

Sometimes it makes sense to buy organic. Conventionally grown apples are among the worst when it comes to containing high levels of pesticides. We think it's most important to try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day -- no matter how they're grown -- period. But if you're looking to include organic fruit in your diet, apples may be a good choice.

Apples are also a good source of fiber and contain flavonoids -- another chemical in plants that helps protect against cancer, heart disease and other chronic health problems. Apple peels are high in antioxidants as well as pectin, a cholesterol-fighter.

Besides their nutritional content, apples and squash have something else going for them: their flexibility. Few foods taste as good prepared as sweet desserts or savory dinners. So if you traditionally bake apple crisp, think about slicing up some apples next time you make a cheddar omelet. Italian food has long used pumpkin and squash in pasta dishes; consider butternut squash ravioli or macaroni in a pumpkin sauce. Here's an idea to get you started:

Golden Harvest Soup

Ingredients

3 butternut squash
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 kabocha or hubbard squash
1 tsp sea salt
4 leeks
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp nutmeg
8 cups stock or water
1 tsp cinnamon

Clean and halve each squash from top to bottom. Remove seeds. Lay squash halves face down and cut across in 1/2-inch slices. Cut the skin off each piece and then chop into 1/4-inch chunks. Clean leeks and cut on the diagonal in 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside one cup.

In a large stock pot, sauté the rest of the leeks in oil for 1 minute. Add the squash and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the stock or water and bring to a boil, then turn heat down and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add oats and simmer 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and let simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until the squash is soft. Puree in a food processor until very smooth. Press soup through a fine-meshed sieve if a smoother texture is desired. Transfer soup back to pot and keep warm. In a small skillet, sauté the remaining 1 cup of leeks in a little olive oil, scatter over warm soup, and serve.

Nutrition information: 169 calories, 6 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, up to 800 mg sodium, 3 g fiber. Serves 12

 

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Thrive Issue: 
Fall, 2008