Fall is a great time of year for healthy foods that feature every UT fan’s favorite color: burnt orange. Many of these burnt orange foods are in season come autumn, and produce picked during its peak season can contain more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they’re ripe and then shipped long distances.
So in the ultimate show of school spirit, why not try fueling up on some of these burnt orange foods and spices before heading out to the game?
If you only use pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns, you’re missing out. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, fiber and beta-carotene, which is a pigment and antioxidant responsible for protecting our vision. Beta carotene which causes the orange color is also linked to preventing heart disease and cancer and boosting immunity. And pumpkin seeds are chock full of protein, magnesium, potassium and phytosterols, all plant-based compounds that may reduce cholesterol.
How to eat pumpkin: Skip the pumpkin spice latte (which contains no actual pumpkin in its flavoring) and pick up some pumpkin puree to add to soups, stews, oatmeal or even smoothies. Pumpkin puree is also a great substitute for butter or oil when baking just add the puree to a box of brownie mix for a more nutritious sweet treat. And be sure to save the pumpkin seeds after your pumpkin carving party to roast in the oven and toss with a sprinkle of sea salt.
In ancient times carrots were used as medicine instead food, and it’s no surprise why: like pumpkin and other burnt orange foods, carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin A. In fact, a medium-sized carrot can provide more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake for vitamin A and is also low in calories while being high in fiber.
How to eat carrots: Raw baby carrots are the perfect portable snack, especially when paired with hummus or other healthy dips. Carrots are also excellent roasted, which brings out their sweet flavor.
Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses due to their high content of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index score than their non-burnt orange counterparts, which means sweet potatoes are better for blood sugar management than white potatoes. Finally, sweet potatoes store well and can avoid spoilage for weeks if kept in a cool, dry location.
How to eat sweet potatoes: Think beyond the marshmallow-covered Thanksgiving casserole and roast, bake or mash sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish. Just like pumpkin, mashed or pureed sweet potato can be used as an oil substitute when baking, and these spuds are also tasty when sliced into fries and baked in the oven.
This versatile veggie is a perennial fall favorite and is loved by many for its slightly sweet and nutty taste. The nutrition profile of butternut squash is equally appealing: one cup of cooked squash cubes contains 297 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, 48 percent of your vitamin C requirement, 18 percent of your requirement for the mineral Manganese and about three grams of fiber all for a mere 80 calories!
How to eat butternut squash: Roasting butternut squash is simple simply slice the squash in half, remove the seeds, add a small amount of olive oil and roast until tender. Other popular ways to enjoy butternut squash are in soups, stews or pastas.
If you like to keep things spicy, then reach for some turmeric next time you’re making dinner. Turmeric is used as a culinary spice and is derived from the root of the turmeric plant, which is widely grown in many parts of Asia. Turmeric is commonly used in curry powder and contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory molecule that may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.
How to eat turmeric: Add some extra turmeric into your favorite curry dish, or toss some turmeric when roasting veggies or baking chicken in the oven. In Okinawa the island nation famous for having the world’s longest average life span turmeric tea is consumed in large quantities. To make your own, boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain your tea through a sieve for an easy anti-inflammatory brew.
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A Burnt Orange Thanksgiving
Tori Jarzabkowski, MS, RD, LD, is the nutrition program coordinator at the Fitness Institute of Texas, a program of the Department of Kinesiology and Heath Education at the university, which serves the Austin community and enhances the education of UT students.