Spicy Butternut and Sweet Potato Soup (serves 4)

This soup provides some welcome colour and warmth on damp and gloomy autumn evenings, although it’s good at any time of year. It’s made from squash, a close (but more tasty) relative of the pumpkin. Enjoy!

Chop 1 lb of butternut squash into chunks, de-seed and cut the skin off with a sharp knife. Peel and roughly chop 2 medium onions, 1 large potato and 1 large sweet potato, and 2 fat cloves of garlic. Add 1.5 pints of stock or water, 1 rounded teaspoon of paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper, ground black pepper and  a  tablespoon of tamari sauce (from health food shop or speciality section of supermarket). Simmer gently for 20  mins or until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise finely, stir in natural, unsweetened yoghurt (e.g. Yeo Valley) or Oatly creamy oat fraiche if you are dairy free and serve with large sprinkling of chopped fresh chives.

And now the science bit… here’s how just good it is for you:

Orange foods such as squash and sweet potatoes contain Beta carotene.

Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant which is great for the skin, repairs damaged tissue and strengthens your immune system. It’s not just an old wives’ tale, carrots really are good for your eyesight as well.

Orange foods are also rich in Vitamin C – known as the King of antioxidants, vitamin C is anti bacterial, and anti viral and helps resistance to infections. It’s also needed for making collagen. Collagen helps keeps your skin elastic and your joints supple.

White foods such as garlic and onion contain flavonoids. In plants, flavonoids help protect against cell damage, parasites and bacteria and it seems they do the same in humans. They also help promote good circulation of blood and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Garlic also contains sulphur compounds which are important for cardiovascular health. They help balance cholesterol and lower levels of “bad” fats in the blood. Keeping your heart healthy is so important in menopause. The female hormone, oestrogen is heart protective and oestrogen levels decline as you age. Heart problems are very common in women, more so than breast cancer.