Cheryl Forberg, R.D., is a James Beard Award-winning chef, the nutritionist for NBC’s The Biggest Loser and a New York Times best-selling author. Her Pumpkin Polenta recipe is reprinted from Positively Ageless: A 28-Day Plan for a Younger, Slimmer, Sexier You (Rodale, 2008). Follow her on at www.facebook.com/cherylforbergrd or twitter at cherylforbergrd
To maintain a healthy balance in your diet, make sure you eat something orange every day. From the burnt orange richness of carrots, yams and pumpkin to the ocher shades of apricots and nectarines, these colorful foods are packed with nutrients and compounds that our bodies need to function properly and stave off disease.
Orange foods take their hue from beta-carotene, a plant substance converted by the human body into Vitamin A, essential for normal growth and development, immune system function, and skin and vision health. Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant shown to help fight cancer and heart-disease. Most people don’t get enough beta-carotene in their diet so it’s important to add orange to the menu daily.
While there is less beta-carotene in foods on the paler side of the orange spectrum, particularly citrus fruits, they still contain healthy doses of Vitamin C, potassium and flavonoids, plant substances found in lab tests to prevent certain forms of cancer. Taken together, the nutrients found in orange foods are believed to reduce age-related sight degeneration, fight harmful free radicals, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones.
Add more orange to your diet by munching on carrots – one cup of this raw root veggie contains 71 percent of the recommended daily value of Vitamin A, and just 52 calories! Substitute yams or sweet potatoes for Russets, and think pumpkin year-‘round, not just at Halloween. Canned pumpkin is always available (just make sure you’re not buying sweetened pumpkin pie filling). Pumpkins contain the antioxidant lutein, also important for healthy skin and eyes.
Sweet Pumpkin Polenta
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
The smell of sweet spices will fill the air while this creamy dessert is baking. It’s divine straight from the oven but tastes heavenly the next day — if there’s any left — when it’s cold.
- 2 cups pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
- 1 large omega-3 egg, lightly beaten
- 2⁄3 cup agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1⁄3 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup plain soy, low-fat or fat-free milk
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- toasted pecans (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 2-quart soufflé dish or casserole with olive oil cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, egg, agave, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
3. In a two-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal, water, milk and salt; mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes or longer until thick and smooth. Remove from the heat.
4. Carefully pour in the reserved pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes, stirring well once, halfway through.
The mixture will be thick and bubbly. Serve warm, sprinkled with toasted pecans, if desired.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING
127 calories, 3 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat, 30 mg omega-3s, 2 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 254 mg sodium
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