Here in Southern California we’re enjoying a break from relatively cold weather. But in reality, we have many more weeks of winter and I know I will want to take advantage of ‘super foods’ associated with the winter months. I like to make hearty soups and stews featuring root vegetables to have on hand after a long day or when friends drop by. The winter months are also the very best time for fresh citrus, so I always like to enjoy those when they are at their best.
The following foods are plentiful in the winter months and pack plenty of FoodTrients power:
Just saying the name makes me chuckle, but this cross between a turnip and a cabbage is very high in fiber and rich in vitamin C with one cup providing 53% of the daily recommended value. Rutabagas are members of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which includes cauliflower and broccoli, that are rich in antioxidants and anti-cancer phytonutrients. They are also an excellent source of potassium, manganese, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which is essential for immune support and helps protect the body from the effects of stress. Roasted rutabagas make a nutrient-rich substitute for potatoes or once scrubbed, peeled and sliced are great with a dip like hummus. I tried adding them to Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry and it was delicious. While their peak season is October through April, rutabagas are available year-round.
An exceptionally sweet root vegetable, parsnips taste like a carrot with a hint of parsley and a little nuttiness. They are rich in fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. Vitamin C is an immune booster and helpful to cell repair. Potassium is important for offsetting the effects of sodium and avoiding high blood pressure. Roasting brings out the sweetness of parsnips. Add roasted chunks to vegetable soups or even vegetarian chili. Peak season for parsnips is from October to April, but they are available all year.
An excellent source of vitamin C as well as pantothenic acid, copper, vitamin A, fiber, potassium, biotin, and vitamin B1, grapefruit is also a good source of dietary fiber. The pink, red or ruby varieties contain the carotenoid phytonutrient lycopene, which is found to be a more powerful antioxidant than other carotenoids such as beta-carotene and research has suggested it may significantly reduce risk of stroke. Studies have also indicated that people with a diet high in lycopene have a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer. In my cookbook, FoodTrients Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life you’ll find an easy and delicious recipe for Spinach and Grapefruit Salad, which has the benefit of iron-rich spinach as well. Grapefruit is in season from September to April, though it’s available in produce departments all year.
With bright orange skins that peel easily into convenient segments, tangerines may just be the perfect snack food. They are less acidic than other citrus fruit and pack a wallop of nutrition. Tangerines are an excellent source of anti-aging antioxidant flavonoids, immune-boosting vitamin C, vitamin A for protecting vision, folate for brain function and production of red blood cells, and potassium for regulating heartbeat and good muscle function. They also contain pectin, a healthful fiber and nobiletin, a citrus flavonoid that appears to prevent atherosclerosis and may contribute to preventing the buildup of fat in the liver. Besides eating fresh, use tangerines in salads, mixed into yogurt or dip the segments in melted dark chocolate. Use the juice in dressings and marinades for a bright, sweet taste. Also known as mandarins, most tangerines are at their juicy peak December through February, but you can find fresh Pixies December through June, and Clementines November through March.