Even though it’s winter, you can still eat healthy, fresh produce. This time of year there are plenty of options for tasty fruits and vegetables! We’ve selected 10 that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck, along with some ideas on how to prepare them.
Our Top 10 Winter Superfoods
Pears, all varieties including Asian, have a high fiber content which is vital in maintaining a healthy heart, intestines, and blood pressure levels. Fiber consumption helps your body absorb the vitamins and minerals from your food. Pears are also rich in Vitamins C and K, copper, and potassium. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that eliminates free radicals from the body and assists in preventing cancer. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron. Vitamin K and copper are essential for bone and blood health and the production of energy. Asian pears have the same nutritional profile as other varieties. How they differ is their crispy texture, which is similar to an apple. Try tossing diced or grated Asian pears into your next pork, seafood, or vegetarian stir fry. Or try this Warm Pear Crisp recipe!
If your only exposure to chia seeds is spreading them onto a Chia Pet™, you’re not alone. The earliest export of chia seeds in the United States was for use in growing decorative houseplants, but these little seeds, originally from Central and South America, are also a rich source of nutrients. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health, supple joints, and good brain function, among other things. In addition, chia seeds are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. These little miracle seeds can be eaten raw, but are generally consumed by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, or muffins.
Not only do avocados taste good, but they are also one of the most nutrient-rich foods around. They are a great source of folate, potassium, vitamin E, lutein, and magnesium. They are also high in fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. In addition, they contain antioxidants, which fight damaging free radicals in your body. This combination of factors means eating avocados regularly can help to protect your body from heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye and brain diseases, and more. Try this yummy Avocado Hummus recipe!
If you are truly trying to improve your diet, adding this cruciferous vegetable to your meal plan is a good place to start. One cup of shredded raw cabbage contains 190% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Cabbage is the second most economical cooked vegetable in terms of price per edible cup (second only to potatoes). This relatively low economic cost makes this cruciferous vegetable a nutritional bargain. Add it soups, make cole slaw, or stuffed cabbage rolls!
At a time of year when other fresh fruits and vegetables are less plentiful, citrus fruit can provide valuable nutrients that might otherwise be hard to come by. After all, sailors once took citrus fruit aboard on long voyages to stave off the threat of scurvy when fresh vegetables were unavailable. Oranges and other citrus fruits are among the best sources around for vitamin C, which helps the body to produce collagen, an important component in building strong and healthy body tissues, including skin, blood vessels, bones, ligaments, tendons, and dentin (teeth), and repairing them after an injury.
Pomegranates are touted as the “most powerful antioxidant of all fruits.” They are among the oldest known fruits, native to ancient Persia, and are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. They also contain vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and iron. As a powerful antioxidant pomegranates fight against various cancers, including: breast, prostate, colon, and leukemia. When consumed on a regular basis, pomegranates were found to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and to lower blood pressure. Try tossing fresh pomegranate seeds on a citrus fruit salad for a colorful, tart, crunchy, and super nutritional bonus.
7. Brussels Sprouts
These little cabbage heads are the comeback kid, now that proper preparation of them is circulating among cooking sites. Not only are Brussels sprouts delicious (try them roasted!) they have an impressive nutritional profile. They’re a great source of fiber, high in protein, and contain more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamins C and K. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and iron. Not too shabby for such a little veggie!
There’s a reason blueberries consistently rank high on the superfood list — because they contain an astounding number of health benefits. When it comes to eating your colors, “blue” is super. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as minerals such as phosphorous and manganese. They’re high in fiber and low in calories, and have practically no fat, as well. This makes them perfect for satisfying your appetite and sweet tooth, managing your cholesterol and weight, and maintaining your digestive regularity and heart health. Whether you enjoy high-bush blueberries (pictured) or the low-bush wild variety, both are available in your grocer’s freezer year-round, and frozen are just as beneficial as fresh. Use them in smoothies, pancakes, and muffins, and pies.
These root vegetables are packed with nutrients and health benefits. They are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and important minerals: potassium, manganese, and folate. Beets help lower blood pressure, prevent inflammation and cancer. Beets also help the body detox by purifying the blood and liver. And don’t discard the beet greens, as they contain more iron than spinach, and have an overall higher nutritional value than the beetroot. Beet greens contain protein, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamins A, B6, C, and K, calcium, iron, and dietary fiber. They boost immune function and bone strength, and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Try these beet recipes!
Wintertime is a perfect time to load up on garlic, when colds and flu are rampant. When crushed and eaten raw, garlic is a great source of selenium, germanium, and sulfhydryl amino acid (a form of sulfur), which assists in proper immune function. This natural antibiotic is an effective treatment for candidiasis, colitis, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Many people take garlic during cold and flu season to help their bodies stay healthy. The key is to take the garlic before a cold because it will help fight it but won’t cure it. Why not whip up a batch of this cheesy garlic bread?
With assistance from freelancer Deborah Tukua