The winter months provide a great opportunity to explore the abundance of root vegetables on offer, while brightly coloured fruits and winter greens also line supermarket shelves. Bursting with essential nutrients and antioxidants helping to support general health and immunity, maintain good mental health and healthy skin, there’s never been a better time to boost your nutrient intake by tucking into these winter ‘superfoods’.
Winter squashes, such as butternut squash, are rich in the plant chemical beta-carotene, which accounts for the distinctive orange colour of their flesh. Beta-carotene acts as a powerful antioxidant and when eaten, is converted into vitamin A in the body, which helps to maintain healthy skin, eyes and immunity. Butternut squash is delicious roasted or mashed or added to warming lunchtime soups (see recipe above).
Unusually rich in bone-friendly vitamin K, this curly green gem still tops the popularity charts. Kale is a source of more than 45 different flavonoids that give it its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power. What’s more it’s packed with fibre, essential for a healthy gut, heart and brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as cancer-protecting glucosinolates.
Although usually cooked and eaten as a fruit, rhubarb is in fact a vegetable native to the colder climes of northern Europe. With its long, pale green and red stalks, it is packed full of healthy nutrients including vitamin C, K and B complex, as well as being a good source of potassium, which may help keep blood pressure levels steady.
A member of the allium family, garlic is a highly concentrated source of heart-friendly sulphur compounds, which help to keep blood flowing smoothly and may also help protect against some forms of cancer. To get the full benefits of these compounds peel and chop or crush the garlic and leave to stand for 10-15 minutes – that’s the time it takes for them to develop their full properties.
This leafy green veg, which is widely used in the Mediterranean, is a brilliant source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well containing no fewer than 13 different polyphenols, plant compounds that have been linked with health benefits. It’s also rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fibre. Enjoy it raw in salads, stir-fries or simply steamed.
Used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries, turmeric – aka the golden goddess – contains potent ingredients called curcuminoids, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and have been found to help boost the body’s own natural antioxidants. In studies they have been shown to help ease the pain and stiffness of knee arthritis, boost immunity and fight the ravages of ageing. If you want the health benefits that can be gained from turmeric you might want to supplement it with products such as Healthspan’s Opti-Turmeric and Pukka’s Wholistic Turmeric.
Beetroot’s vibrant colour is due to a plant compound called betacyanin, which acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and is thought to help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Beetroot are also thought to help with detoxification processes in the liver as well as helping to lower blood pressure.
Jerusalem artichoke (sunchokes)
These lumpy little vegetables are in season during winter and can be used in the same way as potatoes. Jerusalem artichokes contain more iron that other similar vegetables but what makes them particularly interesting is their high levels of inulin, which is an indigestible fibre that acts as a prebiotic in the gut. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria, which help maintain immunity and a healthy gut.Last modified: June 10, 2021