Practicing self-care is one of my cornerstones for healthier eating & living, so I am constantly on the lookout for the things that make me feel good about myself. In my part of the world the snow is gradually melting and spring is creeping in. As I look forward to shorts and sandal weather, it is a reminder to myself that my largest organ deserves some self-care and pampering.
What am I talking about? I am talking about our skin.
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ. Neato, eh? Consider your skin like your body’s coat. It protects you and helps you stay warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. It keeps you internals such as organs, blood, muscle and bones inside and other things outside such as germs and water.
Nourishing and nurturing our skin is just as important as our bodies, our minds, and our emotions.
At a very simplistic level if we do not prevent our skin from cracking or getting damaged, we risk injury from germs, risk of infection which, in the direst of scenarios, can lead to death.
A bit extreme and theatrical you may think, so let’s look at another scenario. When I nourish my skin and keep it moisturized I tend to burn less easily in the hot sun of summer, and during the cold temperatures of our harsh winters the skin on my hands is less likely to chap and crack.
Gone are the days where people would cover themselves in suntan oil (baby oil even!) and lay on the beach for hours. Now people are slathering on SPF 50 Sunblock for fear of sun damage and skin cancer — so perhaps the scenarios above are more real than fiction.
On that final note: “How often do you nourish your largest organ?”
Butternut squash is a hero in the healthier eating arena. High in fiber and potassium, this is definitely a heart-healthy choice.
I found it educational to learn that it is often recommended by dieticians in controlling cholesterol and in weight-reduction programs. I can attest to it having a filling feel to it and with its subtle sweetness is sure please the pickiest of palates.
It is laden down with a multitude of vitamins; rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid. It also boasts a complex mineral profile, containing respectable levels of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, calcium, and phosphorus.
It is a great go-to vegetable when I want something that has very little advance preparation time. Just 5 minutes of prep, pop it in the oven and forget it for an hour, then “Ta da!” I have included the recipe I use for a simple way to prepare butternut squash.
Whether I need something to go along with fish (such as Cajun Spiced Salmon), turkey, or even super-spicy Indian food, roasted butternut squash is able to work very well as a complimentary dish.
Want to spice it up? Try cinnamon, cumin, or simply black pepper. Try sprinkling with fresh herbs just before serving.
Serves: 2 servings
1 butternut squash (approx. 450 g or 1 lb)
5 ml (1 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
With a large sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise.
With a spoon scoop out the seeds and discard.
Coat the inside and exposed edges with the oil.
Place face-down on a large cookie sheet.
Pierce the skin of the squash a few times with a sharp knife.
Roast for 50-60 minutes or until it can easily be pierced and the flesh is soft.
Vitamin A : 9 % Vitamin C : 87 % Calcium : 1 % Iron : 39 %
• Low in saturated fat • No cholesterol • Very low in sodium • Very high in dietary fiber • Very high in iron • High in manganese • High in magnesium • High in potassium (582 mg) • High in thiamin • Very high in vitamin B6 • Very high in vitamin C • Very high in vitamin E
Serving size: 210 g Calories: 102 Fat: 2.6 g Saturated fat: 0.3 g Carbohydrates: 21.5 g Sugar: 4.0 g Sodium: 8 mg Fiber: 6.6 g Protein: 1.8 g Cholesterol: 0 mg
Years ago I was introduced to dried apricots as a compact food to pack for canoe trips. Anyone who has experienced portaging understands the need for compact packing. Years later I continue to have dried apricots in the house as a tasty snack food.
With my research into healthier eating these gems came under scrutiny and I was delighted with my findings.
I was ecstatic to see that dried apricots typically do not contain added sweeteners (sometimes disguises as concentrated fruit juice). Yay!
I have so often been disheartened when reading the ingredient lists of packaged dried fruits that often contain sugar or fruit juice (which is somewhat like sugar in disguise). Dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries — to name a few. Remember to read the label.
One serving of dried apricots is about 1/4 cup or 62 ml (43 grams). A good source of Fibre (2.1 g) and Protein (1.1 g), these little golden beauties are also high in Potassium, Vitamin C, Iron, and also contain Vitamin A and Calcium. Getting back to fibre for a moment, apricots are especially high in soluble fibre which is known to promote and help maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Be aware that sulphites are often used in dried apricots to preserve their colour so choose organic varieties if you are sensitive or have concerns.
I prefer to drink water when I am munching on dried fruit to help to avoid over-indulgence.
And the most important Craving Life criteria — they are mighty tasty; neither too zesty nor too sweet according to my taste buds.
Here in Canada bananas are consistently the most economical fruit available. They are also quite versatile.
When I developed high blood pressure my doctor pointed to bananas as a source of potassium because the introduction of blood pressure medication would affect my regularity. As I researched bananas as a health benefit I found out that there is more to fruit than just using the banana peel in a cartoon prank. The potential health benefits include lowering the risks of cancer and asthma, lowering blood pressure and improving heart health, as well as helping to promote regularity. Healthy regularity is one of the cornerstones for my weight loss and weight management as well as my blood pressure so they are a part of my healthier eating pattern.
Even a small banana at 90 calories has approximately 10% of our daily potassium intake. Add in the 2.6 grams of fiber, Vitamin C as well as Vitamin B-6, there is more to this yellow fruit than meets the eye.
Now another interesting tidbit is that bananas can be used as a substitute in baking.
To replace a whole egg in chewy baked goods like brownies, use one ripe mashed banana for every egg the recipe calls for. This is good to know if you have a vegan in your life, someone that cannot eat eggs or is told to avoid egg yolks because of high cholesterol.
I have had great success using banana in place of oil at a 1-to-1 ratio in recipes such as muffins, cakes and breads, For example, substitute 1 cup of mashed banana for 1 cup of oil to produce a similarly moist, dense product. What I never see mentioned is that by doing so, you have just boosted the sugar by 28 grams of your baked product when using 1 cup of bananas as a substitute. So I also decrease the sugar content in my recipes when I use bananas as a substitute for oil. As sweetness is a matter of taste, some trial and error is required. Given that sugar also adds both volume and moisture, not just sweetness, start with eliminating 25 grams (1/8 cup) of sugar for every 1 cup of banana. So, my starting point when replacing oil in a recipe I follow the 1-to-1-to-1/8 ratio by replacing 1 cup of oil plus 1/8 cup of sugar with 1 cup of banana.
Whether you like your banana cold or at room temperature, barely ripe with a bit of green in the skin or fully ripe, relook at it and see that it is more than just a quick snack to send the kids off to school with.