Chronic diseases caused by inadequate nutrition affect up to 80 percent of North Americans. We are the most overfed, undernourished continent in the world. I encourage everyone to get back to basics and return to a diet consisting of whole foods, such as fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, and the list goes on. If you follow a vegetarian diet, the most common challenge is to ensure adequate amounts of protein and omega-3 fat in your daily diet.
Extensive research has validated the benefits of healthful fats for a healthy heart, balanced hormones, a lean body, flexible joints, shiny hair, strong nails and smart children. Long gone are the days of avoiding fat, in fact, healthful real fats are a must for helping you reach your optimal health. Low-fat and no-fat foods with excess sugar and dangerous trans fats (those hidden phantoms) line our grocery shelves. So make sure your grocery cart is filled with dark, leafy vegetables, expeller-cold-pressed oils from flaxseed and grapeseed, avocados, butter, string cheese and coconut oil.
This month, I want to bring your attention to another challenge: October is a season of change and change is a stressor to our system. Therefore keeping your immune system healthy is so important. Did you know that 80% of our immune system is found inside the gastrointestinal tract? Therefore, building up the healthy bacteria inside our gut with fermented foods such as Greek yogurt and sauerkraut, as well as fibre and an assortment of mushrooms known to stimulate cells of the immune system are important autumnal food choices.
Protein is also an essential food group associated with a strong immune system. For vegetarians, a combination of legumes such as lentils and chickpeas and ancient grains like quinoa and couscous will provide the correct balance of those essential proteins known for fighting off colds and the flu. Embrace the fall season with all its harvest vegetables and nutritious goodness. Good food choices are your building blocks for a healthy season ahead.
Pumpkin & Carrot Soup with Spicy Toasted Pecans
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
For the pecans:
- 1/3 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp. vegetable oil
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin<
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 tsp. Sugar
For the soup:
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1, 14-oz. can pumpkin
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- Pinch cinnamon and nutmeg
- 1/4 cup light cream
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Combine the ingredients for the pecans in a shallow baking dish.
- Bake 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Cool to room temperature.
- Heat the oil for the soup in pot over medium heat.
- Add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in the flour until well combined.
- Slowly stir in the stock. Stir in the pumpkin, thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Simmer the soup 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
- Purée the soup in a food processor, then return to the pot and bring back to a simmer.
- Stir in the cream; season with salt and pepper.
- Top bowls of the soup with a spoon of the pecans and, if desired, a little chopped parsley.
What to serve alongside: Use this soup to start off a festive dinner, Thanksgiving comes to mind. For an extra special presentation, serve the soup in hollowed out mini pumpkins.
Options: Use fresh, cooked and pureed pumpkin in the soup instead of canned. To make pumpkin and squash soup, replace the carrot with about 2 cups of cubed butternut or banana squash. Instead of pecans, try using an equally amount of sliced almonds in the soup. Enjoy!