Fall is definitely in the air, and fall vegetables are showing up at the market. I find it just amazing that just as the weather begins to turn our bodies naturally begin to crave warmer, heartier foods. And it is so fitting that the harvest provides us with foods like winter squash and pumpkin. Both of these vegetables happen to be high in a very important nutrient called beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene belongs to a group of pigments called carotenoids that can be red, yellow, or orange. It is found in many fall fruits and vegetables and is considered a ‘provitamin’ because the body is able to convert it to the active form of vitamin A.
We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes, a hearty immune system, and healthy eyes and vision.
Eating beta-carotene in our diets is a very safe and effective way to get vitamin A. Caution should be used in taking vitamin A in supplement form, as it is fat-soluble and can be toxic in large amounts. Eating vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is very safe because the body converts only what it needs.
Carotenoids are antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage by free radicals. Some studies have even suggested that those who consume at least four daily servings of beta-carotene rich fruits and/or vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.
So come on down to the market this week and stock up on the following beta-carotene rich foods:
- Chinese cabbage
- Sweet potatoes
Sweet Potato Hash
(dairy-free, gluten free, grain free)
Adapted from The Neelys, www.foodnetwork.com
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch cubes*
3 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil, divided*
1/2 red onion, chopped*
1 red bell pepper, chopped*
1/4 cup green onions*
2 cloves garlic, chopped*
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ tsp Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley*
Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted boiling water and simmer until tender. Drain and dry completely with paper towels.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onions, bell peppers, and garlic, and saute until tender and lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the green onion and cook an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, and then add the drained and dried sweet potatoes. Cook in a single layer, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika and gently stir in the onion mixture and parsley.
*Available NOW at the market
Nutrition Facts (per serving for 6): Calories 130; Total Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 135mg; Total Carbohydrate 16g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Sugars 4g; Protein 2g