Winter Foods That Pack a Punch
Updated: Jan 31
It is no surprise that for most of the year we eat the same kinds of foods, chicken, meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Some food choices are more in abundance than others depending on the time of year it is. Fall/Winter foods such as squash, pumpkin, pomegranate are some of the foods in abundance. Although you will see blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes on the grocery shelf in the winter, you will pay more for these items because they are out of season. Sticking to the season of foods helps our body’s use the vitamins and nutrients we need at those specific times of the year. During the summer months, eating lighter seems to be more important because we don’t need to keep warm; we need to feel satisfied but not weighed down.
“Just imagine, how much easier our lives would be if we were born with a ‘user guide or owner’s manual’ which could tell us what to eat and how to live healthy.” ― Erika M. Szabo, Keep Your Body Healthy
In this day and age, it is easier than ever to eat right, if we choose to. A set of DNA instructions would be nice but the best we have is to know what our ancestors suffered from and to start out in life with healthy foods every step of the way. Creating healthy eating habits and tastes then have the chance to be imprinted on us from breast milk to nutritious beer. Alas, this is not the case for most people. That first sweet taste of ice cream or candy is the tiny push most humans need to set them on the road to fighting their body for good nutrition forever. Eating seasonally, and more plant-based food is a great place to start. Knowing what foods do and how they help us is very important.
“Superfoods” is not actually a scientific term, but it is a great way to identify the foods that are the best of the rest of the food chain choices. If a food is leveled up to “superfood” status you can count on that food being able to deliver excellent amounts of vitamins and minerals with antioxidant power. Antioxidant power helps prevent disease. The best way to make sure you can use superfoods all year long is to buy while the out of season foods are at their in-season peak and freeze them. Blueberries are a good example. I buy them when they are in season, July is their harvesting time during the summer months, and after I wash them with a baking soda bath, I can freeze them in a freezer bag, or I can use a coffee filter in a mason jar and freeze them that way. Once thawed, the blueberries last for weeks and weeks in my refrigerator.
"And there are always blueberry pies," I said, pausing to think of other possibilities. "Turnovers, cakes, croissants..." I popped the fry into my mouth. "I don't think anybody's done blueberry croissants." - Mary Simses, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe
“I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure.” ― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
You may not like some of the foods listed below, or perhaps you just haven’t been courageous enough to try some of them, but I challenge you to try them because the body benefit is off the charts good for you.
Here is a list of the healthiest winter superfoods as highlighted by www.eatthis.com and written by dietician Sarah Rueven MS, CDN founder of Rooted Wellness and Amy Shapiro, MS, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition:
1- Winter Squash: Fiber rich, great source of magnesium, beta carotene and vitamins C and B6. These beauties could help decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol.
2- Ginger: Naturally fights off viruses. Used for centuries to improve digestion, soothe upset stomachs, and boost your immune system. Usually available throughout the year, the freshest roots are likely to be those harvested in the winter months.
3- Kale: One of the most versatile winter superfoods. High in potassium which can help to reduce blood pressure by removing excess sodium from the body. For women who are pregnant, Kale is a great source of folate. Folate is aa nutrient that helps form the fetal neural tube.
4- Citrus Fruit: Bursting with vitamin C, it is a great source to help fight colds and flu. Citrus fruit have high mineral and phytochemical aspects and are plant-based which may help reduce the risk of cancer. Navel and blood oranges are most ripe during the coldest, snowiest months of the year.
5- Apples: Another great source of vitamin C, which is great for supporting our immune system. Apples have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels through the pectin they contain which is a soluble fiber. And this means eating the apple peel too. My favorite is apples with peanut butter or any nut butter for that protein kick.
6- Brussel Sprouts: One of the Best winter staples, it ranks high in taste and nutrient density. These baby cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamins K, C, and B6. They also contain folate, manganese, and potassium.
7- Fennel: The vitamins in this vegetable should not be denied. Fiber, potassium, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. It has a strong licorice flavor and can be used as a digestive aid to help improve heartburn and IBS. The entire fennel bulb is edible.
8- Sweet Potatoes: Containing a high amount of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes help fight free radical damage and inflammation.
9- Leeks: Want to curb anxiety and irritability? Leeks are a hefty source of magnesium. Found in the onion family, Leeks have a more-mild flavor than the onion.
10- Parsnips: They taste like a more flavorful carrot and are in fact part of the root vegetable family.
11- Pomegranates: Yummy red jewels of healthy goodness. It’s a bit messy to get the seeds out but the best way to do it is in a bowl of water and cut from the top down in 4-6 slices then peel apart. The seeds will sink, and it is easier to capture the pith from the top of the water then drain. High in polyphenols which is known to improve heart health, fight infection and improve memory.
12- Broccoli: A source of vitamin C. One cup contains more than 100% of the daily allowance. Cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be protective against cancer.
13- Persimmon: Not a very well-known fruit but is a powerhouse of vitamin A which is important for immune function and eye health.
14- Beets: Another root vegetable. This one is high in folate, potassium, and beta carotene.
15- Avocado: Described as a near perfect food, Avocado are most ripe during fall and winter months. Healthy fat content of Omega-3’s, vitamin B, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C, E, and K. Rounding out the field of best winter foods/superfoods is Cabbage and Endive.
Overall, if you keep to seasonal foods, exercise 150 minutes per week (with the videos from the Health Refresh Group), never sit at your desk for too long (walk around every 1-1/2 hours for 5-10 minutes), and drink plenty of water each day, especially when it is dry outside or dry in your home, you will be doing the minimum best for your body.
Call to Action:
How creative can you be in making meals that use as many of these winter foods as possible?
Here is a recipe from Ascend Experience to help you get started:
Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup
SERVINGS 4-6 DURATION 30 min
1 lb. Red bell peppers (Trim off the stems, scoop out the seeds and cut into large pieces)
2- small red onions, cut into large pieces
2- large tomatoes, quartered
2- cloves garlic, crushed
small pinch of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
salt and pepper, to taste
crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Add all of the ingredients into a heavy pot on medium high heat, with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Adjust heat so the pot is sizzling, but not smoking. Scrape and even out the veg in the pot, then let cook until edges begin to brown, and some spots almost blacken.
Once the veg has softened, and there is an even number of roasted edges, turn off heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Add all veg into a blender with approximately ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic or sherry vinegar; run until you get the texture you like.
Add 1 tsp coarse salt, and another pinch of fresh parsley.
Tip: High heat and burnt edges on the vegetables are key to really getting some depth in flavor.
Scoop into bowls, drizzle olive oil, add a squeeze of fresh lemon and sprinkle some salt and coarse black pepper. You can keep it vegan or add some cheese – grate in some parmesan or sprinkle some crumbled feta or cotija over top if you’re feeling jazzy – then enjoy!
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ― Edith Sitwell