“Orange is the happiest color” – Frank Sinatra
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I don’t even really know why, but I am guessing it has something to do with the color of orange. I am not talking football colors, just to be clear to the Eugene tailgaters, but the ones found in the natural world of sunsets, changing leaves, pumpkins, and persimmons. The color orange reigns supreme in fall and blesses us all with its warmth and happiness right before winter sets in with the blues. Why would Mother Nature load up our lives with so much orange at this time of year? Two words: carotenoids and bioflavonoids.
Carotenoids are precursors to the almighty fat-soluble vitamin A that is so important to a healthy immune system, which is what we want going into the winter months. I say “precursor” because preformed vitamin A can only be obtained from animal products like seafood, eggs, fish, cod liver oil, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc. However, carotenoids are powerful antioxidants found in yellow, red, dark green, and orange fruits and vegetables. They are converted to vitamin A in the upper intestine and depend on a robust digestion and the presence of fats for the conversion. Yes…that’s right; A is a fat-soluble vitamin and requires healthy fats for proper assimilation, so slather some grass fed butter on those pumpkin pancakes. Here is one of my (adapted) favorite gluten-free versions found at Marc Wagner, MD’s website, www.bioflourish.com:
- 1 medium banana
- 1/2 cup pumpkin
- 1 cup almond butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Coconut oil
- Puree the banana and pumpkin in a food processor
- Whip the almond butter on high for 2-3 minutes. Use the whisk attachment on your electric
- Add the puree and everything else to the whipped almond butter. Whip it some more, until
- Grease your waffle maker with coconut oil for each waffle you make.
- Ladle on some batter. Leave about 40-percent room around the edges, so the batter can spread.
- Cook until brown (3-5 minutes). If it’s still floppy, cook it some more.
- Eat immediately or freeze (toast to thaw).
Now on to the bioflavonoids, which fall under the broad-spectrum term of phytochemicals. These superheroes are what give plants their deep rich color so it is important to eat them in their whole food form and in a variety of color. For the plants that contain them, they help to protect against sunlight damage, deter herbivores, prevent infections, and provide pigmentation. For those of us who eat them, they act as powerful antioxidants both protecting and improving our cellular health.
The tricky thing about bioflavonoids is that they are referred to in so many different ways, which makes it kind of hard to nail them down on an ingredient list. This class of compounds is so diverse, science is still in the process of creating categories and sub-categories. Do polyphenols ring a bell? Yup! That’s them! There have been thousands identified with each having its own unique disease-protective form. Current diva supreme is resveretol, found in the red pigmentation of grapes and alas, red wine.
The cool thing about these nutrients is that if you eat them in their whole, nutrient-dense form, you don’t have to overthink it; just trust that nature has put them together in a way that helps make her gifts to us more bioavailable, easier to be absorbed and used by your body’s unique needs. For our autumn-loving orange, think of apricots, persimmons, papaya, quince, kumquat, and sapote; anything with deep rich coloring. Bioflavonoids work synergistically to enhance the uptake of vitamin C so abundant in those fruits, and they are water soluble, so can they be enjoyed in their enzyme-rich raw food form as a snack, spread, or dessert. For fall, orange really is the happiest color.
Carrie Brown Reilly, NTP