Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Warm up this autumn and help support your immune system at the same time with this ‘nutritious and delicious’ salad.
Did you know? Beta and Alpha-carotene are abundant in butternut squash, as well as other foods that are orange in colour. They are transformed by your body into vitamin A, which is crucial for a healthy immune system. Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin C, a water-soluble nutrient needed for immune function, collagen synthesis, wound healing. Vitamin A helps to keep the tissues in the reproductive system healthy, along with ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. It also helps with tissue repair in the mother after birth has taken place. Vitamin C is important in male fertility as it has been shown in studies to help the motility and quality (as it is an antioxidant it helps prevent damage to DNA). In females it is thought to help the endocrine system balance oestrogen and progesterone more effectively and so help ovulation.
Red onion, a prebiotic food – helps to keep the gut healthy by feeding the ‘good’ bacteria found there. A healthy gut is important for the functioning of all body systems including the immune system and reproductive system. Red onion is also a great source of antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties (important for conditions such as endometriosis) along with a good amount of various vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin c and B6, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Feta cheese provides calcium and also protein which helps to regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the release of sugar from food into the blood stream. Excess sugar may ‘stress out’ the immune system and studies have found it to increase inflammation in the body, having a direct affect on immune function (there is more to come on this area in a further article). Balancing sugar levels is important for fertility too, as fluctuating sugar levels has a knock- on effect on hormonal balance. Keeping glucose levels well balanced is also important for those with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Autumnal Immune Boost Warm Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Feta Salad
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
1 butternut squash
2 red onions (sliced)
250g feta cheese cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pinch sea salt and black pepper
Wash the butternut squash and cut into cubes, leaving the skin on but removing the seeds. Peel the red onions and cut each one into six segments. Place the squash and onions in a baking dish, add the oil, cumin seeds, salt and pepper and mix well. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before adding the feta and basil. Enjoy while warm.
Important note: When trying to conceive it is important to avoid consuming too much vitamin A in the Retinol form – as this may increase the risk of birth defects – this is why it is best to avoid pate and liver products pre-conceptually. If you are unsure ask your health care provider such as GP or Qualified Nutritional Therapist/Dietician
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