Boost your health this season with the freshest winter ingredients. Learn which foods are at their peak during these chilly months and why they’re healthy. These foods are easy to incorporate into a meal plan and will tantalize your taste buds all winter long.
- These small bulbs grow along stalks and have a taste and texture similar to cabbage. Brussels sprouts take a long time to grow and are best harvested in winter. In the produce aisle, look for sprouts that are green with little yellowing. To prepare this delicate vegetable, use fresh Brussels sprouts (refrigerate them for up to two days); rinse with cool water and remove the outer leaves. The core of Brussels sprouts takes longer to cook than the leaves, so cut an X at the bottom of the core to allow for venting. You can steam, roast, or saute this vegetable. Sprouts usually take 7-10 minutes to cook; just make sure the bright green color doesn’t fade into a yellowish tinge. This is a telltale sign of overcooking, which leads to a bitter and mushy finished product. For best cooking results, select Brussels sprouts that are uniform in size.
A cup of cooked Brussels sprouts has around 60 calories and 11 grams of carb. They’re a great source of fiber, too, with 4 grams per cup. This vegetable also provides potassium and vitamins A, C, and K.
- Pomegranates are the perfect balance between tart and sweet. Throw these seeds on top of salads, or eat them plain. You can also cook down the seeds and reduce the juice into a delectable syrup perfect for topping off whole wheat pancakes.
A 1/2-cup portion of pomegranate seeds has 70 calories, 16 grams of carb, and 3.5 grams of fill-you-up fiber. This unusual fruit contains folate and B vitamins. The deep red hue of this fruit also means it contains the antioxidant anthocyanins. Research shows pomegranates pack a punch of antioxidants and can reduce the risk of some cancers — such as prostate — and lower your risk for heart disease.
- Cinnamon is a kitchen staple that seems to get more popular as the months get colder. Cinnamon provides a hint of spice and warmth to almost any recipe, including pumpkin pie and hot chocolate.
Cinnamon contains essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Some studies using Cassia cinnamon have suggested benefits for people with diabetes, including a small study of 60 people published in Diabetes Care in 2003, which showed that cinnamon decreased insulin resistance and lowered blood sugar levels up to 29 percent as well as lowered cholesterol levels. Cinnamon’s direct effect on blood sugar is a source of ongoing debate and study.
- The flavor of kiwi is almost as striking as its bright green color. The green fruit, which is surrounded by a fuzzy brown peel, originated in China, where it was called Chinese gooseberries.
Kiwifruits are loaded with vitamins; they have more vitamin C than oranges, plus they’re high in vitamins A and K. One small kiwi provides just 40 calories, 10 grams of carb, and 2 grams of fiber.
- Cabbage is low-cost and versatile, making it the perfect vegetable to stock in your kitchen this winter. Cabbage can be used in a variety of ways. Add chopped cabbage to a stir-fry, soup, or salad. Wrap your favorite vegetables or lean meats in a cabbage leaf instead of a tortilla or bun for a delightful stuffed-cabbage meal.
There are many varieties of cabbage, including green, red, savoy, bok choy, and napa. Cabbage is also nutritionally sound; raw cabbage contains vitamins A, C, and K. Research shows vitamin K helps with bone health by increasing bone density and decreasing the risk for osteoporosis. Cabbage makes a great addition to any meal, as it is very low-calorie and low-carb with just 22 calories and 5 grams of carb per cup.
- This subtly sweet, orange-hue starchy vegetable is a nice sweet or savory complement to any meal. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant, which helps reduce cell damage in the body. Beta-carotene from foods might help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Depending on the size, a sweet potato can contain 50-150 calories and 12-40 grams of carb, so do your best to properly weigh or measure portions. Sweet potatoes also provide 2-6 grams of fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Adults should aim to eat 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories eaten daily.