Monday, September 24, 2012

September in California

There’s something about September that always seems to signify the beginning of a new year and a fresh start.
In the nutrition world, September, and back-to-school season opens the floodgate of conversation to be centered on back-to-school lunches and the best way to nourish those thriving young minds.
As we transition into autumn, it also shifts the focus of family meals to become more centered on wholesome, comfort foods. This transition is one that both Lisa and I embrace whole-heartedly because it helps put our bodies in tune with the shift of the seasons.
Yes, it’s true that the stereotypical Southern California diet consists of raw salads, lots of fruit and avocados – which are ideal light fare for when we’re living in temperatures that exceed 100 F. But, as the climate cools (even if it’s ever so slightly), there’s something incredibly nurturing about sharing a warm dinner with the people you love.

Even the foods in season this time of year are perfect ingredients for comforting meals. They include:
asian pears, chili peppers, corn, eggplant, grapes, okra, peppers, persimmons, tomatoes, and tomatillos.

Eggplant is one of our favorite foods. Because of its versatility, it’s great as a side dish by itself or used as an ingredient in a variety of Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. Eggplants contain two naturally occurring compounds, phenolics and anthocyanins – the latter being responsible for giving eggplants their deep purple hue. Both compounds may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.

Peppers (especially the hot ones!) not only add a lot of flavor to your cooking, they can be great for your health. Hot peppers are a concentrated source of capsaicin, which studies suggest has cancer-protective, anti-inflammatory, and pain-reducing effects. Preliminary research also indicates that capsaicin may act as a blood thinner. So next time, say "yes please" to adding a little extra spice to your dinner.

Tomatoes, even the canned ones, are the perfect healthful addition to any kitchen or pantry. They are jam-packed with nutrients, filled with Vitamins C, A and K and are a precious source of lycopene – the compound that gives tomatoes their color. Since ripe, fresh tomatoes are perishable, canned tomatoes are a good substitute. When you cook tomatoes, or when they are mildly processed, such as in the case of the canned version, lycopene becomes more available to your body. And there are a lot of perks to getting your lycopene. Scientists have linked this powerful antioxidant to a laundry list of health benefits such as improved heart and bone health, improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reduced inflammation, and prostate cancer prevention.

 To enjoy these in-season ingredients, try making one of our favorite comfort meals, Shakshuka. It's best paired with whole wheat pita bread and even some chatzilim.

These seasonal tips & recipe were featured in last month’s
Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
For more “In Season” tips & recipes, pick up the next issue of
The Health & Family Guide on October 19th.

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