The 25 Best Winter Superfoods Slideshow
February 10, 2017
Embrace the best fruits and vegetables the season has to offer
A freshly roasted beet tastes like candy (remember, sugar comes from beets as well as cane), but unlike your typical Kit-Kat Bar, beets are loaded with vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked beets contains one third of your daily value for folate and 28 percent of your daily value for manganese. Beets are also plentiful sources of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that’s been linked to lower instances of heart disease, and nitrate, which improves the dilation of blood vessels.
Broccoli rabe (also called rapini) is in peak season from January to May, but this bold and bitter green should be included in your diet year-round. Broccoli rabe is a great source of vitamin A, C, and K, but it is also plentiful in folate, which can help reduce allergy symptoms.
As far as trendy vegetables go, there’s nothing more in vogue right now than Brussels sprouts (unless of course it’s the inevitable kale). In the U.S., this traditional winter vegetable is in peak season from September to March, and Brussels sprouts are said to be sweeter after the first frost. Besides being absolutely delectable when roasted, Brussels sprouts have the nutritional profile of a tasty multi-vitamin, providing more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamins C and K, as well as noticeable amounts of vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and iron.
Cabbage is an affordable and versatile winter superfood. It’s especially rich in vitamins C and K and folate, and has been found to reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of certain cancers. Unlike many other fresh vegetables, cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks when properly wrapped in plastic.
Cauliflower has become a popular replacement ingredient in recipes that call for potatoes or grains. White cauliflower is the most popular, but there are several other varieties such as orange, green, and purple, each containing a slightly different nutrient makeup. White cauliflower contains a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals including folate and vitamins B6, C, and K. Research is also being done on its phytochemical compound, isothiocyanate, which has been linked to the destruction of certain cancer cells. However, to fully take advantage of cauliflower’s healthy properties, avoid boiling it — which kills a large proportion of the phytochemicals — and try steaming or roasting it instead.
It might not be the sexiest winter vegetable, but celeriac’s subtle yet earthy taste makes it the perfect addition to silky soups, crisp salads, and creamy gratins. The vegetable tastes like celery with notes of parsley, and — like celery — it is low in calories and high in fiber. Unless serving it raw (peeled and thinly sliced or julienned), celeriac should be washed, peeled, and boiled, similar to preparing a potato.
November is the beginning of clementine season. Clementines are a cross between the Chinese mandarin and the orange, but their small size makes and thin peel make them the perfect snack. Two clementines fulfill an adult’s daily requirement for vitamin C. They’re also pretty tasty covered in chocolate.
Not all American palates enjoy the subtle bitterness of endive, but this winter vegetable should be on your radar. However, the number of different leafy vegetables that go by the name “endive” is staggering: Frisée, chicory, escarole and Belgian endive all qualify. Regardless of which endive you’re talking about, the leafy green is a plentiful source of thiamin, potassium, and calcium. It also contains intybin, a bitter substance that acts an appetite stimulant and digestive. (Frisée is a leafy, frizzled salad green; just plain endive usually refers to the robust, torpedo-shaped cream- or red-hued core.
When consumed raw, fennel has an intense licorice flavor; when roasted, it takes on a caramel-like sweetness. One fennel bulb contains only 73 calories and almost no fat, but it’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and a host of other minerals. Experiments on mice concluded that the extract from fennel seeds could have anti-tumor properties and could also protect cells from oxidative stress.
When you think of winter foods, grapefruit rarely comes to mind, but Florida and Texas grapefruit peaks from December to April. The nutritional benefits of grapefruit are immense, with one large fruit containing 120 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Just be careful if mixing grapefruit with some prescription drugs.
The flavor of jicama is somewhere between those of a savory apple and a water chestnut. Jicama can be used raw, tossed with other ingredients into a Festive and Healthy Jicama Salad, or lightly sautéed. Jicama contains inulin, a compound that strengthens bones by enhancing the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Kale, the trendy superfood, is especially effective at reinvigorating worn-out winter skin. Kale is rich in vitamin C and copper, which both benefit skin health. A lack of vitamin C can hinder collagen production and weaken the skin, while copper contains melanin, a pigment that aids in protection from sun exposure.
The size of leeks makes them one of the more intimidating foods in the produce aisle, but this winter superfood is worth trying. From a culinary standpoint, leeks diffuse a subtle garlic flavor to soups, stews, and risottos. They’re especially low in calories and are plentiful sources of vitamins A and C.
Citrus fruits are available during the winter time if they’re imported from tropical regions. Oranges are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat, providing a day’s worth of vitamin C, as well as fiber. The flavorful orange also contains more than 170 different phytochemicals, some of which can lower inflammation and reduce blood pressure.
Parsnips taste a bit like sweeter, earthier potatoes. Their long roots resemble carrots, and like carrots, they can be eaten raw, but the parsnip’s starch content makes it the perfect candidate for a purée or luscious soup. A cup of parsnips provides 29 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 17 percent of the RDI of folate, and 24 percent of the RDI of manganese.
Move over apples; winter is pear season. The Anjou variety, also known as the winter pear, is high in dietary fiber, which helps to alleviate constipation, among other benefits. Studies on animals have shown that pears may also be able to regulate alcohol metabolism and protect against ulcers.
The persimmon is common in Eastern Asia but has recently become more prevalent in the United States, where its peak season is from October to January. It resembles a tomato but with a muted orange hue. Persimmons can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked, but American-grown persimmons are best consumed when fully ripe. American persimmons are especially rich in vitamin C and iron, with three and a half ounces of fruit containing 80 and 19 percent of your daily recommended intake, respectively.
The pomegranate is an underutilized ingredient in Western cuisine, but the fruit’s luscious seeds can add a sweet and crunchy bite to salads and soups. Pomegranate juice has been touted by marketers as a way to reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, although these claims were found by the Food and Drug Administration to be largely unsubstantiated. That said, research on animals has found the pomegranate to be a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
This slightly bitter maroon-colored bulb (larger ones resemble small cabbages) can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked. At only nine calories per cup, radicchio is an ideal weight-loss food, but it’s also a good source of zeaxanthin and lutein, two compounds that protect eyes from age-related diseases. Easily incorporate it into your dinner with this Balsamic-Grilled Radicchio With Shaved Pecorino.
Despite their small stature, these root vegetables are powerful superfoods. Besides being low in calories, radishes contain compounds call isothiocyanates, which have been found to kill cancer cells. Slice them up for a quick, guilt-free snack, or toss them into a Radish, Cucumber, and Chive Salad.
It might be a humble root, but the sweet potato is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s a rich source of beta-carotene — a pigment that eventually converts to vitamin A within the body. October through December is the peak season to purchase sweet potatoes. Here are some great recipes to transform sweet potatoes into a delectable meal.
Some heat is required to breakdown the fibrous leaves of Swiss chard, but even after cooking, chard contains a sizeable amount of protein and fiber relative to its calorie content. The leafy vegetable is a major source of magnesium, with one cup providing almost half the daily requirement. For cold winter nights, try cooking up this luscious Zucchini and Swiss Chard Soup.
Turnips have a shape similar to that of beets and other root vegetables, but they’re actually more closely related to kale, Brussels sprouts, and arugula. When roasted, turnip roots become sweet and tender, but the real health benefits come from their leafy-green tops. A recent study found that dietary nitrate found in turnip greens can benefit cardiovascular health. Turnip greens can be braised at a low temperature, sautéed, or quickly blanched. If you don’t know what to do with turnips or their greens, check out some of these recipes.
Gourds may be the symbol of fall, but they’re at peak flavor during winter. Squash contains carotenoids (compounds responsible for the bright orange and yellow colors), vitamin A, and potassium, and can be roasted, blended into soups, or added warm to salads. Acorn, butternut, and kabocha squash all offer a different taste and texture, so don’t be afraid to experiment with assorted varieties.