The weather outside might be freezing, but that doesn’t mean your fruit and vegetable options aren’t sizzling. If you take a closer look at the produce aisle right now, you’ll find some standout cold-loving options that will surely increase your appetite for winter and also the nutritional value of your diet.
“When in season, fruits and vegetables likely have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals,” said Jill Nussinow (aka The Veggie Queen), registered dietitian, culinary educator, and cookbook author.
From beets to parsnips, many of these subterranean wonders are now available year-round, but Nussinow says they’re at their best when the local weather turns chilly—”cool temps make them sweeter tasting.” She says many people don’t realize how versatile winter vegetables and fruits can be in the kitchen. From soups to stews to salads to stir-fry, there seems to be no limit to their culinary uses. As a bonus, Nussinow notes that seasonal root vegetables can be very budget-friendly and benefit from a long storage life.
Here is the cream of the crop when it comes to winter fruits and vegetables to help tide you over until strawberry and asparagus season.
Notable for their sweetness, beets have some of the highest natural sugar levels of any veggie. They contain betacyanin, an antioxidant that may help combat certain cancers, as well as nitrate that can improve blood flow to aid in lowering blood pressure numbers.
Try this: Add a splash of color to hummus by blending in 2 medium-sized cooked beets.
Their flavor tends to be sweeter and less tart than typical oranges. On top of a wallop of vitamin C, the color of these blood oranges signals the increased presence of anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that appear to help lower the risk for cognitive decline.
Try this: Toss together 1 peeled and chopped blood orange, 1 chopped orange bell pepper, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1 seeded and minced jalapeño, 1/4 cup cilantro, juice of 1/2 lime, and a couple pinches of salt. Use as a salsa for cooked chicken or fish.
This curvy winter stalwart is jam-packed with beta-carotene, which in greater intake levels has been linked to improved brain functioning as we age. “Beta-carotene also helps boost your immune system and is good for the eyes and skin,” says Nussinow.
Try this: Add pureed squash to pancake batter and baked goods batter, including muffins, to add natural sweetness and moisture.
This veggie is loaded with vitamin K, a nutrient that a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found can lower the risk for certain types of heart disease.
Try this: Shred raw sprouts and use as you would cabbage in slaw recipes.
Crisp and crunchy with a pleasant licorice flavor and aroma, all parts including the white bulb, green stalks, and wispy dill-like foliage are edible. Fennel contains appreciable amounts of quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that may lower the risk for some cancers.
Try this: Toss thinly sliced raw fennel with orange sections, baby spinach, sliced red bell pepper, and 1 tablespoon each extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Garnish salad with fennel fronds.
Just one cup of nutty and slightly sweet tasting parsnips packs in a whopping seven grams of fiber—three more grams than carrots. A recent study in BMJ determined that people with higher intakes of fiber are at a lower risk of premature death from various diseases including Type 2 diabetes.
Nutritionally, pears’ claim to fame is stellar levels of dietary fiber—six grams in a medium fruit. “Most people need to be eating more fiber to promote better gastrointestinal health,” notes Nussinow.
Try this: Blend a pear into a seasonal smoothie with milk, yogurt, almond butter, cinnamon, and vanilla.
The yellow-tinged creamy flesh has a slight sweetness that’s combined with a peppery edge. It supplies good amounts of vitamin C, hunger-fighting fiber, and potassium to keep blood pressure numbers in check.
Try this: Use in pureed soup recipes or shred raw rutabaga and make it into fritters.
Sometimes called Jerusalem artichokes, the crunchy tuber is an unexpectedly good source of energy-boosting iron and is also well-endowed with the soluble fiber inulin. “This feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which can improve your immune system,” says Nussinow.
Try this: For a much healthier take on French fries, slice sunchokes into matchsticks (no need to peel them), toss with oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 350 degrees F for roughly 15 minutes.
The flesh is crispy with a peppery zing and delivers plenty of vitamin C. Research suggests adequate intakes of vitamin C can help lower the risk of suffering a stroke.
Try this: Cube and add to potato mixtures and hash recipes.
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