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Winter Produce offers variety flavor and nutrition

While many types of fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season during winter time, there are some very nutritious choices including winter squash, pears, apples, navel oranges, sweet potatoes, sweet bell peppers and grapefruit.

Wondering about winter squash? There are several types: butternut, Hubbard, turban, acorn and banana – and any of these can be used in recipes calling for winter squash. Winter squashes can be a tasty and filling treat, are great in casseroles, pies, soups, or mixed with grains and beans and are actually more nutritious than most summer squashes. One serving (~ ½ squash or 1 cup cubed) packs 6 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron and calcium. Butternut and acorn squashes are members of the yellow-orange family of fruits and vegetables which means that they are abundant in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A and may aid in prevention of certain types of cancer and macular degeneration. Try this sample recipe:

Sweet Buttered Squash

1½ pounds yellow squash, sliced thin (peeling optional)
1 small sweet onion, sliced thin and halved
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced in slender strips
1 TB brown sugar
1 – ½-oz packet of butter sprinkles
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Place onion, green pepper and squash in pan and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. When squash begins to get tender, add brown sugar, butter flakes, and black pepper. Cook until desired tenderness is obtained. Serve immediately. Note: Do not add any salt until you have tasted the squash. Serves 6.

Nutritional facts per serving:
44 calories
< 1 g fat
10 g carbohydrate
3 g dietary fiber
0 mg cholesterol
349 mg sodium

Foods to Brighten Your Mood

In addition to providing solace and pleasure, food can brighten your day by providing various nutrients that have been shown to affect brain chemicals that influence mood. Brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, facilitate communication within the brain and between the mind and body. Foremost among these is serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps messages move throughout the nervous system. High levels of serotonin are associated with elevated mood, while low levels signal more subdued states. When serotonin is in short supply, for example, insomnia and food cravings may occur.

Eating foods that contain nutrients (that stimulate the production of serotonin) can help perk up a drab day. The key is to eat a balanced and varied diet and to pay attention to when your mood tends to flag. If you notice that your spirits fall at certain times of day, plan meals and snacks accordingly, and try to eat a variety of foods so that the body maintains a proper balance of the chemicals that can influence mood. Some good mood-boosting choices include leafy greens, fish, poultry, whole grains, low or non-fat milk, spinach, whole wheat bread and pasta.