8 Best Winter Foods

By: Michele Wolfson

It's basically winter season with these 40-degree days and even colder evenings that seem to start before 5 pm. The chill in the air makes it all the more tempting to take on a pleasantly plump physique in hopes that it will keep us warmer during these brutally cold months. Truthfully, this notion only makes it a more difficult and sweatier experience to walk up the subway stairs and makes holiday picture gazing in the spring a painful one. So much for pleasantly plump! The moral of this lesson? Don't forget to stop by the produce aisle this winter and purchase fruits and veggies!

The cold months are the perfect time to branch out to bolder fruits and vegetables and some of the best hit their peak just in time to snap your taste buds out of their winter funk. Here is a list of 4 fruits and 4 vegetables that you must eat this winter.  Be sure to check out local farmers markets in your area so that you can get the freshest and most local produce around.

1. Brussels Sprouts

My mother never had to tell me twice to finish my Brussels spouts and that's because they are delicious! The high fiber content (over 15% of our RDA) of Brussels sprouts lowers cholesterol by binding with bile acids that the liver produces from cholesterol for digesting fat. When preparing this cruciferous vegetable, remove the outer layer of leaves, trim the stems, and toss with olive oil and sea salt. Place them on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees F until they're nicely browned. Then, saute them with a little butter, almond extract, golden raisins and sliced almonds for a delicious dish! They also can be eaten raw and sliced up in a salad.

2. Pomegranate

Pomegranate seeds are high in polyphenols, plant chemicals that fight inflammation. They are full of antioxidants that lower LDL. Research also shows that eating organic pomegranate seeds and drinking pomegranate juice can increase oxygen levels to the heart. Mix the seeds into oatmeal for more flavor and crunch.

3. Beets

My favorite way to eat beets is in a salad with goat cheese. Wrap a few beets in foil and bake them in a 350 degree-F oven for an hour or until they're cooked through. Then cut them into cubes to toss into a salad of greens and crumbled goat cheese. Add a drizzle of walnut oil.

4. Kiwi

One kiwi contains about 100 milligrams of immunity-boosting vitamin C. This fruit is nature's perfect medicine to prevent a cold and other common winter illnesses. It is also rich in Vitamins A and E, and its black seeds can be crushed to produce kiwi fruit oil, which is very rich in Alfa-Linoleic Acid (an important Omega-3 essential fatty acid). Add kiwi slices to a spinach salad.

5. Sweet Potatoes

This vegetable can be used in any course from an appetizer to a dessert.  Several recent studies have shown sweet potatoes amazing ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly true for children. In several studies from Africa, sweet potatoes were found to contain between 100-1,600 micrograms (RAE) of vitamin A in every 3.5 ounces-enough, on average, to meet 35% of all vitamin A needs, and in many cases enough to meet over 90% of vitamin A needs (from this single food alone). It's sweet for your health to eat sweet potatoes! Puree cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with chopped walnuts. The fat content of the walnuts will help you get optimal absorption of the beta-carotene in the sweet potatoes and your kids will love them.

6. Guava

One cup of raw guava contains more than 8,500 micrograms of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent coronary artery disease. Guava has been used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, cough, colds, skin issues, high blood pressure and helps with weight loss and scurvy. It's pretty amazing that one fruit can cure so many different ailments. Pair it with blue cheese and figs for a snack.

7. Kale

Perhaps my favorite vegetable these days, kale is excellent when gently sauteed with olive oil, sherry vinegar, chopped garlic, and mushrooms. This dark leafy green vegetable is so awesome- it can even be made into a chip! Why has kale gotten an edge on all the other dark leafy greens? Nutritionally, kale has Vitamins K, A and C, and calcium and iron. Its delicious, complex flavors make it a stand out veg.

8. Goji Berries

Research shows that eating berries like blueberries, acai berries, cranberries, strawberries, and cherries offers some definite health benefits. Berries like the goji berry are filled with powerful antioxidants and other compounds that may help prevent cancer and other illnesses, including heart disease. The antioxidants in goji berries also boost the immune system and lower cholesterol. Over time, people have used goji berries to treat many common health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, fever, and age-related eye problems. Goji berries are eaten raw, cooked, or dried (like raisins) and are used in herbal teas, juices, wines, and medicines. I soak mine in tea and it is a wonderful way to enjoy this nutritional berry.

Photo: Carol Moshier 

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