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Grain Integrative Health, a northwest primary care clinic in Portland, OR has developed a seasonal eating program to address the rising number of flu infections in recent years. As days shorten, night becomes colder and Autumn provided a bounty of edible plants, the Portland area has a large volume of farm offerings to reduce the costs of healthy eating. The doctors are Grain Integrative Health help patients find local farm resources, CSA’s and learn how to cook foods that prevent illness. Dr. Kates-Chinoy explains that darker, colder days lower the immune system’s defenses.
Fatigue is the clinic’s number one chronic symptom that patients report when they establish care at Grain Integrative Health. Cold should encourage us to eat foods that warm our bellies, bone broths (a recent craze in the Portland area), Pho (a Vietnamese bone soup filled with rice noodles), and other types of stews utilizing local produce such as squash, pumpkins, late harvest tomatoes and beans. Dr. Baum notes that “Nature provides what the human body needs in each season; when you eat seasonal foods you invest in your health and contribute to environmentally-friendly eating pattern. Our providers think environmental health is critical to human health.”
Winter recipes welcome squash- acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata squash, kabocha squash and of course pumpkin. Squash varieties each have slightly different nutrient profiles but all are high in fiber, which can help patients feel full longer and may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Baum told us the “Orange flesh of the squashes and pumpkins contain carotenoids, an essential nutrient for optimal immune system function. We try to focus our patients on utilizing their money to purchase healthy foods, rather than vitamins or medications, to heighten defenses against viruses and bacteria. The mineral zinc is found in high amounts in squash, particularly in the seeds. Roast the seeds like your grandmothers did when you were a kid. Cooking food at home is the best medicine.”
Winter also brings Brassica vegetables: kale, cauliflower, and cabbage and brussel sprouts. Dr. Kates-Chinoy notes “Brussel sprouts, turnips and kohlrabi contain a high amount of sulfur, necessary for detoxification pathways, to help keep mucus thin which could prevent colds. Their high antioxidant levels may reduce inflammation and they contain vitamin C, a potent nutrient in cold and flu season.”
The doctors are quick to point out that most know garlic is healthy, but so are other vegetables in the allium family. The primary care doctors at Grain Integrative Health recommend leeks in their patients diets; leeks contain sulphur and vitamin C and pack an extra punch with an important antioxidant called manganese. Dr. Oltman notes “Both potatoes and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of minerals like potassium and magnesium but you have to eat the skin. Sweet potatoes and yams contain a huge amount of carotenoids that help boost immunity.”
Grain Integrative Health is a primary care clinic located in the Belmont-Richmond neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Oregon. The team of doctors are collaborative and they offer comprehensive primary care, collaborating with patients, specialists and accepting most insurance plans. The doctors want patients to bring great seasonal vegetables into your kitchen for your health.
Dr. Oltman’s Winter Farm Soup
1 large butternut squash/2 pie pumpkins/2 acorn squash
4 cloves of garlic
3 cups of quartered brussel sprouts
6-8 cups of bone broth (any broth will suffice), depending on the desired consistency.
Optional for a creamier soup: 1 can of coconut milk or 12 oz of heavy cream.
Spices (discussed below)
Coconut oil, butter, sesame oil and/or avocado oil
- Preheat oven to 420 degrees.
- While the oven is heating up:
- Cut the squash in half (be careful), scoop out the middle part with the seeds and cover the exposed surface of the squash with a thin layer of oil. Then add a light sprinkle of sea salt.
- Cut all your brussel sprouts into quarters (or halves if they are small ones). Toss these in a bowl with melted oil so they are lightly covered in oil.
- Put the squash, facing up, in the oven along with the brussel sprouts all on a oven-safe pan or tray. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash is soft enough to cut into with a spoon. You may take out the brussel sprouts early if they start to blacken.
- While the squash and brussel sprouts are baking:
- Dice the onion, garlic and leek (you can use the entire plant, including the thicker green tops).
- Sautee them in the bottom of the soup pot in an oil of your choice.
- Add diced ginger toward the end of sauteing. Generally, a good amount of ginger is the size equivalent of 2 of your thumbs or 3 tablespoons.
- After sauteeing is complete, add the broth and continue to heat on medium.
- You may also add cream at this point if you want a creamier flavor.
- After the squash and brussel sprouts are finished baking, remove them from the oven allow to cool for a few minutes. Scoop out the squash “meat” and put it in the soup pot.
- With the brussel sprouts there are options:
- Leave them to the side until the very end and add the quarters to the finished soup or have them as a side dish.
- Add them to pot with the squash so that they become blended or pureed.
- With all the ingredients in the pot, add spices black pepper, diced rosemary and salt to taste and simmer for few minutes while breaking apart the large chunks of squash.
- Another spice combination that goes well with these ingredients is a curry mix: turmeric, cumin, cayenne, coriander and black pepper.
- Another spice combination that goes well with these ingredients is a chai style mix: cloves, cardamom, allspice and nutmeg.
- Play around with spices! They allow you to cook with the same basic ingredients and transform the same recipes into totally different experiences.
- The last step is to mix or blend the ingredients to your liking. In the pot now, there are likely some chunks of squash, quarters of brussel sprouts and all the diced ingredients.
- If you like a chunky soup, you can simply manually break down the big chunks of squash and you are good to go!
- If you like a more blended soup you can use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients while still inside the pot for a medium blend.
- If you like a pureed soup that has essentially no chunks at all and is smooth all the way through, use a blender or vitamix. Pour the soup from the pot into your blender and blend it until it is homogenous. Set this aside in a separate pot and repeat until the entire soup is blended. This may be the best option for kids because you can hide big chunks of vegetables and the consistency may be more palatable.
- Serve with pumpkin or squash seeds on top and enjoy!