by Sarah K. Grundy
Fall..that smell of freshly sharpened pencils, new beginnings, boldness, courageous shedding of layers and breaking through old paradigms.
AYURVEDA. Mother Earth. Witches from the Salty Seas.
Include these ingredients into your day now that the season has turned.
Pomegranate: The pomegranate has been heralded for centuries, and in fact, it’s one of the oldest known fruits in existence. Lucky for us, this gorgeous fruit is still plentiful and we’re able to enjoy the benefits of its jewel-like seeds and juice, which is brimming with free-radical zapping antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown to lower cholesterol, improve heart health, and possibly inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. On top of this, pomegranates are a great source of iron and vitamin C, and vitamin B-6 which helps keep your body functioning as it should.
Pomegranate seeds are delicious as they are, but they’re also incredible tossed into salads, soups, and smoothies. The next time you break out your juicer, try adding in a few pomegranate seeds to reap their rewards.
Pumpkin: It seems only natural to start this list with the most autumnal of them all, doesn’t it? Pumpkin is ubiquitous for fall and on top of being flavorful, this squash is also jam packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin is incredibly rich in fiber, which helps to keep you feeling full longer and keeps your digestive tract healthy. Pumpkin is also rich in folate, which aids in cell renewal, and is an amazing source of vitamin A, which helps keep your vision sharp. Just 1 cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A!
While it’s great mixed into baked goods and smoothies, pumpkin is even better when it’s incorporated into savory dishes like soups and stews. You can even roast it and mix it into pasta and rice dishes for an easy meal. And don’t toss the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are rich in phytosterols, plant-based chemicals that have been shown to lower cholesterol, and they also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help boost your mood.
Beets: People seem to either love or hate beets, and I fall into the former category. In my opinion, beets are pretty awesome. These jewel-tone root vegetables were originally harvested for their greens only, but over time people caught on to how delicious the roots were as well, and good thing, because these earthy vegetables are also nutritional powerhouses. Along with vitamin C, folate, and manganese, beets are also a unique source of betaine. Never heard of betaine? You’re not alone, but this elusive nutrient aides in reducing inflammation and has been shown to protect cells from environmental stresses and about a million other things. Beets are also an incredible detoxifyer and help to purify your blood and your liver. And don’t throw out those greens! Buying a bunch of whole beets is a nutritional two-for-one: the greens themselves contain even more iron than spinach.
Beets and beet greens are super simple to prepare. The root can be roasted, juiced, shaved onto salads, and thrown into almost anything. The greens can be steamed, sauteed, or mixed into soups and salads; whichever way you make them, they’re sure to be delicious.
Pears: After researching their nutritional benefits, I’m working on including this autumnal fruit much more into my day. Just the skin of pears contains over half of the entire fruit’s dietary fiber and three to four times as many antioxidants. Pretty incredible, right? Pears are also a great source of fiber and can help aide in lowering oxidative stress on our cells.
Pears are great raw, but my favorite way to eat them is roasted or baked as a dessert. They’re also an amazing addition to salads and can even be tossed on the grill and served as a sweet accompaniment to a savory dish.
Squash: Besides pumpkin, there are countless numbers of other squash available this season, and you should definitely pick some up. Depending on which type you choose, squash is generally an amazing source of fiber and vitamin C, and also contains high percentages of potassium, which can help muscle performance and vitamin A, which helps development.
If you’re new to the wide world of squashes, I think the two friendliest are acorn and butternut. Try trimming and roasting a butternut squash, or making it into butternut squash soup, or try making a stuffed acorn squash. Once you get the hang of it, explore the countless other varieties out there, each one with their own amazing benefits.
Cinnamon doesn’t just smell heavenly, it also has a number of great health benefits and is actually a powerful medicinal herb used for years in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for colds and headaches, among other things. Cinnamon is known to be a great digestive aid and also helps lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar. Even the scent is said to boost cognitive function and memory! I love adding a small dash of cinnamon to coffee or tea, or on top of oatmeal. Cinnamon and honey in tea is incredibly soothing and delicious.
Juniper Berries Juniper berries are commonly used as a spice in preparing hearty type dishes. As a veg head, the only way I've ever consumed them was in a beverage, but they are delicious! Their health benefits including improving digestion, lowering blood sugar and improving kidney health. Mix juniper berries with cinnamon and cloves and any other desired ingredients, simmer, strain and serve hot!
Turmeric is native to Southeast Asia and a member of the ginger family, and is thought by many cultures to be one of the most beneficial substances around. It is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian foods, and was also often used in ancient Indian medicine, Ayurveda. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that some studies show can also be used to block the growth of certain cancers. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory. It is best incorporated into food raw – just sprinkle a bit in soup or mix in with salad dressing and enjoy its mild flavor and many health benefits! Oh, and the unexpected uses – turmeric can be mixed with plain yogurt to create a skin cream to promote healthier skin, and it can also be used to make a really beautiful natural dye!
I actually never knew this is what nutmeg looked like! I’m used to the ground, reddish brown powder that you get when these are ground up. Nutmeg is one of my favorite additions to sprinkle on top of soup in the fall – it has a very potent flavor so you only need small amounts. Medicinally, nutmeg has powerful antibacterial properties and can effectively kill bacteria in the mouth, preventing cavities and sickness – and nutmeg oil can be used to treat toothaches! Other health benefits include mixing with honey to help with nausea, indigestion and even anxiety and depression.
Last but not least, cloves are another great seasonal spice that can help remedy colds, skin problems and more. Cloves work surprisingly well as an expectorant if you have a cough – add a couple cloves to your tea and let it do its work! For an unexpected use, a small satchel of cloves in a drawer can give your clothes a lovely aroma and also keep them fresh. Combine ground cloves with honey to make a homemade facial remedy that will help fight breakouts and balance out your skin.
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