Monday, November 23, 2015

A Month of Squash

Our butternut squash harvest this summer was more than expected. Even after giving many away we still ended up with over 50. That comes to eating about one squash per week, so needless to say I am looking for butternut squash recipes - got any?

So far, this is what we have made:

Butternut Oven Fries
These are delicious. I peel and cut the squash like french fries and place on a baking sheet coated with olive oil. A few sprinkles of olive oil on the top and these go into the oven at 400 degrees F. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the fries are soft. Remove from oven and add salt. You can also add other spices like paprika and chili powder. Eat as you would French Fries with Ketchup! Low calorie!

Chili with Squash
To your favorite chili recipe just add a cup of peeled cubed squash.  Its delicious with black bean chili. Here is my blackbean chili recipe.

Curry Soup
This recipe is similar but not identical to the Squash Curry Soup we make. So the vast number of recipes for pumpkin or squash soup gives us many options.

Butternut Risotto
It's easier and quicker than it seems. Here is my recipe:
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2/3 cup arborio rice
1 T powdered vegetable broth
32 oz water
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated (optional - mix with Parmasan cheese)

Put oil and onion in a soup pan and cook until translucent. Add rice and squash, stir. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Add more water if necessary. When squash is soft, remove cover. Stir on low heat until water evaporates. Add cheese and stir.

Now this is just one month of squash, I need 11 more.  Although I know we will enjoy these recipes multiple times I am still going to need help. What are your favorite vegetarian recipes for butternut squash?

Oh, and did I mention that butternut squash is high in vitamin A? This is one of the best vitamins for your body during the autumn season. Squash also has vitamin C and magnesium is low in calories and high in fiber. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Rember to Eat Lignans for Memory

Remembering to eat foods high in lignans, like broccoli, flax and berries is important for keeping your memory sharp. Several small studies have suggested that phytoestrogens from plants can play a role in maintaining mental abilities, and now two larger studies support those claims.


Lignans are polyphenols found in plants such as seeds, whole grains, legumes (such as soy), fruits and vegetables. Flaxseed also has a high amount of lignans. They are part of a family of phytochemicals called phytoestrogens.  They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but the studies on reducing risk of various cancers can be conflicting. Read more about lignans here.

In the first study the dietary intake of phytoestrogens over the previous year was determined for 403 postmenopausal women.

Cognitive function, which mainly involves memory and mental abilities, was determined using a questionnaire called the “mini mental state exam.”  Decreased scores on this test are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other age-associated memory problems.

Analysis of the data showed that higher dietary intake of lignans (but not isoflavones) was associated with better cognitive function in postmenopausal women.

The group who ate more lignans had a 49 percent higher rate of intact cognition, whereas the isoflavone group had only a 12 percent higher rate of intact cognition. This effect was more pronounced in women with a longer postmenopausal time span (20 to 30 years).

A more recent study looked at ingestion of several antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, lutein, flavonoids and lignans. This larger,  5-year study involving 2613 persons aged 43-70 year at baseline again showed lignans, much more so than any of the other antioxidant group stood out as improving cognition at middle age. 

Phytoestrogens found in plants have a chemical structure similar to that of the hormone estrogen, allowing them to have some similar effects in a woman’s body. A number of mechanisms are proposed for the action of phytoestrogens on the ability to think clearly. These include the ability of phytoestrogens to promote the health of the blood vessels, to act as antioxidants and to interfere with signalling mechanisms within the cell. Among other things, improving mental capacity is one reason why some women choose estrogen replacement therapy. Increasing dietary consumption of lignans may be sufficient for this purpose.

Lignan Structures

Higher Dietary Intake of Lignans is Associated withBetter Cognitive Performance in Postmenopausal Women. Franco, O.H., et al. The Journal of Nutrition. 135:1190-1195, 2005.

Diet and cognitive decline at middle age: the role of antioxidants. Nooyens AC, Milder IE, van Gelder BM, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, van Boxtel MP, Verschuren WM, Br J Nutr. 2015 May 14;113(9):1410-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000720. Epub 2015 Apr 8.


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