Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Cancer-Fighting Foods

Tomorrow is the first offical day of the Fall season. Around Michigan, that means cooler temperatures, the apple orchards are open and an abundance of pumpkins and various types of squash are available. It turns out that pumpkins and squash are not only fun to carve and decorate with, but they are full of cancer-fighting chemicals.

Studies have shown that a diet rich in beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin can lower our risk of cancer. The best sources for these are carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes as they are supercharged with cancer-fighting carotenoids. Pumpkin, winter squash, collards and kale are also top-ranked according to the USDA.

Classic Baked Acorn Squash Recipe

1 Acorn squash
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Maple Syrup
Dash of Salt
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using a strong chef's knife, and perhaps a rubber mallet to help, cut the acorn squash in half, lengthwise, from stem to end. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff in the center of each half. Score the insides of each half several times with a sharp knife. Place each half in a baking pan, cut side up. Add about a 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the baking pan so that the skins don't burn and the squash doesn't get dried out.

Coat the inside of each half with 1/2 a Tbsp of butter. Add a dash of salt if you are using unsalted butter. Add a Tbsp of brown sugar to the cavity of each half. Dribble on a teaspoon of maple syrup to each half.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the squash is very soft and the tops are browned. Do not undercook. When finished, remove from oven and let cool a little before serving. Spoon any buttery sugar sauce that has not already been absorbed by the squash over the exposed areas.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on how much squash you like to eat.

Pumpkin seeds are particularly high in disease-fighting plant chemicals called phytosterols, so be sure to roast after you carve.

How to prepare pumpkin seeds:

Rinse the seeds to separate them from the stringy pulp
Pat them dry
Toss them in olive oil and salt
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until slighly puffed and golden.

Enjoy your Fall foods!
- Shannan

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