Here in the Sonoran Desert we are finally experiencing some wonderful cooler mornings and evenings, planting fall gardens, being outside more often and hoping to fend off all viral infections!

The harvests are in with plentiful bounties of apples (so much variety now), luscious pears, sweet grapes and a wide selection of squashes—the most popular being the pumpkin.

Pumpkin is full of great nutrients that keep us healthy:  zinc, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, manganese, and phytoestrogens which may reduce breast cancer risk. And let’s remember to roast those pumpkin seeds, which are so tasty with a blend of salt and spices. Pumpkin seed oil is known to reduce blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and to significantly reduce the symptoms of over-active bladder.

(Who knew?)

It is time to make some nourishing soups and stews—be sure to have these spices on hand to enhance the flavor and keep your immune system healthy: garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper, as well as some dried mushrooms (maitake, shitake, ennoki) which are often available at Sprouts, Natural Grocers, or Whole Foods.

Cut down on sugary foods—I did not say eliminate—because this is the season to make pumpkin pie, holiday cookies and breads.  BUT you can easily take any dessert recipe and cut down the sugar by at least a third.  Better yet, most of the time, eat fresh, room temperature fruit for dessert.  Why room temperature?   Because all fruit is ripened and picked in warm weather and the warmth enhances the sweetness of the fruit. Besides, sugar is inflammatory and not so good for our health.  It also causes weight gain and can set us up for becoming a sugar addict.

Drinking green tea with or without ginger, turmeric, blackberry, mint, or lemongrass on a daily basis is immune-enhancing.  Have at least one cup a day.

Then there are supplements to take at the first sign of a potential viral infection: the aches, the tired eye feeling, the blahs, runny nose and sore throat. I strongly recommend having a bottle of Bio Vegetarian or Biotic Extra on hand for the next 4-5 months. These products contain vitamins and minerals, herbs and bioflavinoids to help prevent and/or shorten the length of most viral infections.

Please get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night and be out in nature as much as possible.  And most important of all—wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and don’t touch your face.

For some great recipes, please visit Dr. Sally’s Kitchen: Smitten Kitchen, NY Times

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