Even living in sunny California during winter when the days are shorter and a little bit chilly, I like to prepare hearty winter produce that also happens to fall into the “superfoods” category. Their many disease fighting and anti-aging properties make them some of my top FoodTrients-filled produce. These fruits and vegetables lend themselves to recipes that serve as comfort foods during the cold, dark winter months, but they have the added benefit of doing great things for your body.
Pumpkin – You may associate pumpkins with Halloween, but fresh pumpkins are available from October through February. They contain large amounts of potassium (33 percent more than a medium banana) and beta carotene without a boat-load of calories—49 per cup mashed. The high amounts of potassium in pumpkins works with sodium to balance the amount of water in the body. A diet high in potassium helps keep blood pressure at a healthy level and assists with the prevention of strokes. Pumpkins contain more than 2400 mcg of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health. Try my Moringa Vegetable Soup, which also contains powdered moringa leaves, pumpkin, eggplant, okra, onions and many other vegetables. The moringa leaf powder is rich in protein, vitamins A, B, C and minerals. It’s a delicious, high FoodTrient meal in a bowl!
Brussels Sprouts – These mighty sprouts represent a cancer-fighting powerhouse and are part of the cruciferous cabbage family which have more cancer-preventative nutrients than any other category of vegetables. They contain a chemical called sinigrin that suppresses the development of pre-cancerous cells, causing them to self-destruct. The sulfur-containing compounds in Brussels sprouts are what activate the cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body. Brussels sprouts are available fresh September through March. They are delicious and take on an almost creamy texture when they are roasted with olive oil, a little salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice.
Sweet Potatoes – A staple during the fall and winter months, sweet potatoes owe their bright orange color to the carotenoid, beta-carotene. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that can ward off free radicals that damage cells through oxidation, contributing to the aging process. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of heart-healthy potassium as well as containing phytochemicals such as quercetin, a strong anti-inflammatory. My delicious tropical dessert, Sweet Potato and Jackfruit Delight, contains jackfruit, which are plentiful in Southeast Asia; coconut milk, which hydrates the skin and helps keep it elastic; and sweet potatoes, which also deliver a big dose of fiber and beta carotene.
Cauliflower – A member of the nutrition-packed, cruciferous cabbage family along with Brussels sprouts and broccoli, cauliflower is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich, and may boost both heart and brain health. Eating cauliflower provides impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and much more while supporting healthy digestion and detoxification. It also contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has been linked to killing cancer stem cells, which can slow tumor growth. A great way to enjoy cauliflower is with my recipe for Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry which provides plenty of health-boosting vegetables. In addition to the cauliflower and protein-packed tofu, it contains broccoli, a good source of lutein, which can help prevent macular degeneration. Both the cauliflower and the kale in the recipe have phytonutrients that protect against cancer. I like to use a wok to prepare this dish, but a large skillet will do. Enjoy versatile cauliflower which is in season from September to June.
Pears – Pears are a fiber super star with 5.5 grams in one medium specimen. Fiber plays an essential role in your digestive, heart, and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and more. People who ate a diet high in white-fleshed fruits like pears or apples also had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke, according to an American Heart Association study, likely due to their fiber and phytochemical content. Pears are also rich in potassium, vitamin C and copper. For a delicious and elegant dessert that contains a number of ingredients that try my Pear and Apple Tart. Not only is it loaded with fiber from the pears and apples, but it contains pecans and cinnamon, which are high in antioxidants. It is worth noting that when used in sufficient amounts, cinnamon also has anti-blood-clotting agents and anti-inflammatory properties and may help stabilize blood sugar levels. You’ll find fresh pears in season August through February.
As you can see, we may be in the midst of winter, but you can spend time “cocooning” with hearty, flavorful recipes that contain plenty of fruits and vegetables that provide important wellness benefits. Stay tuned for more news on winter superfoods in the coming weeks.