With winter setting in, naturally we are programmed to crave foods that are energy dense to keep us warm, not to mention make us feel happier - what we often refer to as ‘comfort foods’. For this month’s seasonal nutrition guide, Resident Nutritionist at Mangaroa Farms, Lydia Thomsen reinforces the importance of retaining nutrients when cooking and zooms in on the importance of Zinc and its richness in a surprising source.
How to make the most of warmer foods in Winter
While we call on comfort foods to get us through the colder months, there is such a thing as ‘healthful’ comfort foods such as soups, curries and hotpots. They’re carbohydrate rich, however they are the types of dishes where you can pack a lot more nourishing vegetables in; which is necessary since some vitamins and minerals we need more of (i.e. Vitamin C) can be reduced when in contact with heat, light and water (see last month’s blog article).
The good news is, some foods are actually better for us when cooked. Cooking in general does improve food digestibility and for certain foods can increase their nutrient content and make certain vitamins and minerals more bioavailable. Cooked carrots for instance contain more beta-carotene than raw carrots, which is a substance the body converts into vitamin A. Furthermore, cooking spinach improves the body’s ability to absorb the calcium and iron content in spinach. In this instance the cooking process reduces the oxalate content (oxalic acid) which is known to block the absorption of these nutrients.
Just be mindful of the length of cooking time, and the amount of liquid used to retain water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B vitamins. While there is no perfect cooking method, cooking for shorter periods at lower temperatures with minimal water will maximise nutrient quality. When it comes to soups, the good news is these vitamins are retained in the cooking liquid which makes soups an important part of our diet to attain these essential nutrients.
Speaking of soups, one soup that comes to mind is the humble paukena / pumpkin soup. We’ve been celebrating this seasons’ pumpkins for a number of weeks now, which is another good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, as well as a source of Vitamin E, folate and fibre. Check out the recipe on our website on Roasted Pumpkin Soup to add to your winter repertoire:
Seed saving and Zinc
The other advantage of making the most of pumpkin is to save the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and are the richest seed sources of Zinc, which we need for supporting our bodies to make proteins and DNA, but also for a healthy immune system.
In fact, while not proven definitively, did you know that Zinc can shorten the duration of a cold and its intensity due to its ability to bind to the virus before it attaches to our cells? That’s if you cotton on to the first signs of symptoms early!
A serving of pumpkin seeds (15 grams / 1 tablespoon) provides around 13 percent of your daily recommended zinc needs, when aiming for an intake of 8-11 mg per day. They are also rich in magnesium (meeting 20% of healthy adult magnesium needs per 15g) and fibre with whole seeds containing twice the fibre than shelled seeds. You can also obtain zinc from sources such as meat, shellfish, eggs, wholegrains, legumes, spinach and fungi such as shitake mushrooms.
So if you’re interested in saving your pumpkin seeds for an easy, nutritious, filling snack, check out the recipe below.
How to prepare your seeds for roasting:
- Remove the seeds by scraping out the pumpkin with a wide, flat spoon
- Put them in a bowl of water to rinse the seeds and separate the stringy flesh with your hands, then drain in a colander
- Pat the seeds dry, then spread the seeds evenly on a large baking tray
- Put a few lugs of olive oil over the top and sprinkle sea salt and spices such as cumin and/ or smoked paprika. Or experiment with other herbs and/or spices such as ground fennel seeds and chilli.
- Mix these ingredients together until well coated
- Bake in a 180 degree celsius oven for 10 minutes or until they are lightly toasted.
- Leave to cool and store in an airtight container.