Autum is stunning here in Colorado and I wait for the leaves on the trees to begin to glow orange and yellow. I love how the temperature drops, and I get to dust off my beloved boots. There’s a pumpkin patch near my house that begins to boast its harvest with pretty little pumpkins for miles. I pulled over the other day to take this picture (see below). I love looking with fall recipes, and especially with squash. But I confess I haven’t found my ‘pumpkin gene’ yet. They’re just okay, I like pumpkin pie once in a while, but honestly I don’t crave pumpkins.
The gourd I long for is butternut squash!
Butternut squash has a lot of beta carotene which your body automatically converts to vitamin A, unless you have a variant (expressing genetic SNP) in their BCMO1 gene. In that case, you can’t convert the beta carotene to Vitamin A very well, so supplementation with retinol would be helpful or you become deficient in vitamin A. The health perks of eating butternut are just crazy amazing.
I don’t want to waste your time by talking up the benefits of fiber, vitamin B6 and C and folate, minerals and beta carotene, you already know how good those are. Today, I’ll focus on beta cryptoxanthin, this is a powerful carotenoid (similar to beta carotene) and it protects DNA. So much so, that studies suggest it can help with cancer, especially lung cancer.
Researchers in Philadelphia just published results from an animal study stating beta cryptoxanthin can “be used as a chemopreventive agent or a chemotherapeutic compound against lung cancer.” It works by flipping a switch on the genes in your body that keep cancer from spreading. As for inflammation, cryptoxanthin compound has the ability to reduce development of rheumatoid arthritis according to a University of Manchester study.
A 3 1/2 ounce serving (100 grams) of cooked butternut squash contains about 3,120 mcg of beta cryptoxanthin, whereas a bowl of boiled carrots contains only 199 mcg. Surprisingly, tangerines are very high in cryptoxanthin. Potassium is present in butternut squash, and this mineral is known to support healthy blood pressures. Plus, let’s be honest, butternut squash just tastes amazing, especially if you slather it with maple syrup and bake it during a cold snowy day. Mmm.
Lutein is also present in this squash which everyone knows has been studied for its protective benefit on macular degeneration. Lutein is well-documented to protect your eyes and skin. As for butternut squash, the only thing you have to throw out is the skin. You can actually eat the seeds. Many people do. Think of pumpkins and roasted pumpkin seeds. If you like to roast pumpkin seeds with olive oil, salt and pepper, you can do the very same thing with butternut squash seeds.
These little guys are rich in tryptophan which converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin and then breaks down into sleepy melatonin. Here is one recipe from my newest ebook called “Eat for the Seasons: 21 Delicious Fall Recipes.” You can download your own copy from my website, suzycohen.com. In the meantime, try this recipe.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SAVORY SALAD
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons coconut or brown sugar
½ cup organic almond slivers
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
6 cups mixed lettuce greens (Romaine, butter, etc).
1 avocado, sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced thinly
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
Melt butter in a skillet and cook the butternut squash with salt and pepper (as desired) and sugar (to caramelize it.) Cook until golden or lightly brown and tender. Toast the almond slivers in another saucepan along with the pumpkin pie spice, keep tossing them until they are toasted, it took about 5 minutes for me. Toss the salad greens along with the cooked butternut squash, cucumber, and pomegranate seeds. Then top with avocado slices, cucumber and toasted almonds. I make my own dressing at home by combining EVOO and pomegranate vinegar. Pomegranates are natural beta blockers, and help reduce blood pressure.