What are the winter super-foods and why we need them?

Cabbage
Cabbage is considered to be the most important [vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability. Cabbage possesses phytochemicals including sulforaphane, which studies suggest protects the body against cancer-causing free radicals, and indoles, which help metabolize estrogens. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids. Slaw is the obvious application for cabbage–this recipe is cumin-spiced which makes it winter-palate friendly: Moroccan Carrot and Cabbage Salad.

variety of winter squashes Variety of winter squashes

Besides being a rich source of carotenoids, fiber, vitamin A, B, and C, just to name a few, they are delicious. They remind me of winter, as much winter as we get in Los Angeles. Here are some of the health benefits of variety of squashes:

  • Immune boost because of beta-carotenes and vitamin A 
  • Skin & hair because of B vitamins
  • Bones & joints because of minerals

This is how I make my squash, except I leave out the grain (millet, rice, quinoa)

cinnamon Cinnamon
Cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant levels on the list, and has an added bonus in that it may help you better regulate your blood-glucose levels. Although I realize that cinnamon’s not exactly a “local” product for those of us not in Indonesia, it doesn’t seem like the worst offender in terms of carbon footprint–one little stick goes a long way. See Cinnamon’s Secret Health Benefit for more on cinnamon. I personally love sprinkling some cinnamon on my coffee or almond milk turmeric latte.

Pecans
People always lament that the tasty things are the worst things for our health–case in point: French fries. But how about pecans? Yum! Pecans have shown to significantly lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL. Frequent consumption of nuts is associated with a lowered risk of sudden cardiac death and other coronary heart disease, as well as a lower risk of Type II diabetes in women. A handful of pecans can brighten a meal, and I’m not talking about candied pecans. 

Walnuts
Nuts are great health foods – they’re cholesterol-free, generally low in sodium and a great source of vitamins and minerals. But in terms of antioxidant content, walnuts seem to beat the rest of the nut family with 3,72 millimoles per serving. Toss these nuts into salads, mix them into muesli, or include them in rice pudding or apple tart.

Pomegranate
Pomegranates offer very high antioxidant activity–and research shows that drinking pomegranate juice may help with lowering the risk for hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. I find eating pomegranate fruit one of life’s simple pleasures, but for a daily dose, pomegranate concentrate is more accessible. As children we used to try eating pomegranate without dropping a seed on the table 🙂 Here are some delicious pomegranate recipes.

Red Delicious Apples
In addition to high anti-oxidant levels, apples have a huge array of excellent health benefits. Although I’m crazy about Granny Smith apples, Red Delicious apples scored the highest for anti-oxidant levels on the USDA list; but I’m sure the USDA didn’t tackle a huge variety of apples for testing. Along with the high antioxidant magic from apples, they are also rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol.

Russet Potatoes
Potatoes got a bad reputation in modern nutrition lore, most likely because of their high starch content–but potatoes are awesome. They contain no fat or cholesterol, have 3 grams of protein per medium potato, 2 grams of fiber (with skin on), which may aid in weight loss, lower blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease. They have 45% Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C and 18% DV of potassium. Russet potatoes are specifically high on the list, but as is the case with apples, I’m sure a limited variety of potatoes were tested by the USDA. I imagine that the deep-hued varieties have even more anti-oxidants, like the Adirondack Red or Peruvian Purple. 

cool beansRed Kidney Beans

An excellent source of protein, antioxidants, folic acid, potassium, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, beans are flavorful, nutritionally dense, inexpensive and versatile. Read about heirloom varieties, cooking tips and 125 recipes.

My favorite is a simple salad of mixed red kidney beans with garbanzo beans, chopped red onions, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil. Sometimes I may add feta cheese crumbles in it also.

Artichokes, cooked
The humble artichoke also made the top-10 list. Apart from the 3,56 millimole/100g antioxidant punch, artichokes are a good source of iron. These veggies also help to reduce bowel upsets and help to let good bacteria flourish in your gut.

Cook artichokes for 20 minutes with a slice or two of lemon, a bay leaf and salt. The leaves and the heart can then be eaten.

Cranberries

The cranberry really is a super-food. Numerous studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of this fruit can help prevent and treat urinary tract, and possibly other, infections. One reason why cranberries are so healthy, is because of their high antioxidant content (3,13 millimoles per 100g).

As cranberries are generally too tart to eat fresh, go for the canned varieties and use these in both sweet and savory dishes.

fennel salad Fennel

With it’s licorice-like flavor, fennel is packed with nutrients and it’s a natural source of estrogen. Ancient practitioners used fennel in natural remedies, and it is still being used for immune support, bone health, digestion and metabolism. Here are some healthy fennel recipes.

Also check out this winter fennel & pomegranate salad

PS: make sure to take care of your skin in winter months

About the author 

Ani Papazyan

Ani is a pain relief specialist and an educator. She utilizes advanced pain relief manual therapy techniques, functional nutrition, genetics, and education to help people overcome pain and do what they love.

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