Healthy Vegetables for Winter @ Reward Me

Healthy Winter Vegetables

Just as your wardrobe changes according to the climate and especially the approach of winter, so too should your diet. Choosing local, seasonal produce will give your body’s defence mechanisms a potent boost at this time of year.


Seasonal foods are at the peak of their goodness, bursting with the nutrients your body needs to meet the health challenges of the approaching winter. And, if you buy locally, you’ll reap even more benefits: locally grown foods are kinder to the environment and usually less expensive. Here’s a list of winter’s most powerful veggies, and why they’re particularly good for you at this time of year…

Kale
Kale (or “collard”) is part of the cabbage, or brassica, family and native to Britain and the Mediterranean region. Even though this veggie has only recently grabbed the media’s attention, making it more popular around the world, it’s been known as a superfood for many years. Kaleis packed with nutrients. Its rich array of amino acids makes it a valuable plant protein source and a fantastic addition to a vegetarian diet. Many people also specifically include it in their diet for its high calcium levels (yes, kale contains even more calcium than milk!), magnesium (seen in its rich, green chlorophyll pigments), sulphur and iron. The plant is also very alkalising. What’s more, the beta-carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthinin (all powerful antioxidants) in kale help to keep the eyes and vision healthy. Kale’s bitter, sharp taste (off-putting to some folk) also makes it a powerful internal body cleanser that assists both the liver and the digestive system.
Choose winter kale with its crinkled leaves, as this tends to be sweetest and most enjoyable.

Cauliflower
Cauliflower, like other members of the brassica family, is prized for its magical phytonutrient compounds. Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that stimulate the liver, have cancer-fighting properties, as well as antibiotic and antiviral characteristics. Although cauliflower contains less carotenes and chlorophyll than broccoli (its fellow superfood), it does contain boron, which helps to build strong bones.
Try not to cook cauliflower and other brassicas for too long, as the sulphur they contain can make them smelly. These veggies may also have a gassy effect on the body, so try adding them slowly to your diet if you’re not used to eating them. In large quantities, the brassicas can lower your iodine levels, so keep tabs on your intake and add iodine-rich foods (e.g. sea vegetables) to meals when you can.

Sea vegetables
Not so familiar with sea vegetables? Seaweed is one of the plant kingdom’s richest sources of absorbable, concentrated minerals. It’s a rare plant source of vitamin B12 (mostly found in meat) and particularly rich in iodine, which promotes thyroid function and helps control weight – a lack of which leads to an inability to metabolise food. Some kinds of seaweed, like kombu, can also assist with the digestion of beans and pulses.
Sea vegetables are available all year round in their dried form, and can be used in soups and other dishes to add nutrients and flavour without adding calories and fat.

Leeks
Leeks are a softer, more subtle member of the onion family in terms of aroma and taste, yet these veggies retain their strong immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties when cooked. Traditionally, leeks have been used as an antiseptic for sore throats.
Leeks are rich in folic acid (especially important during pregnancy), vitamin K and potassium. These nutrients help the kidneys remove excess fluids and also help to restore alkalinity in the body (particularly useful in people with gout). Simply replace onions in meals with good-for-you leeks.

Swiss chard and spinach
Yes, Popeye knew what he was doing. Spinach is low in fat and high in nutrition, and is particularly rich in magnesium, iron and chlorophyll – all of which help to keep your body in tip-top shape. It promotes bowel movements and, in this way, helps to detoxify the digestive system. Spinach must be cooked very quickly to ensure that it doesn’t become bitter. On cooking, the oxalic acid in spinach (particularly high in Swiss chard) is converted into an inorganic form that binds with calcium to form a compound that can’t be absorbed. It’s therefore best to eat spinach as close to raw as possible. Adding lemon juice or vinegar helps to retain the rich iron content.
Choose organic spinach if you can, as this veggie is on the “dirty” list of highly sprayed chemicals.

Beetroot
Despite having a fairly high sugar content compared to other vegetables, beetroot is both low in calories and fat. It’s an excellent source of iron, lycopene (a powerful antioxidant), potassium and vitamin C.
Beetroot is also a rich source of fibre and the amino acid, glutamine. It’s an exceptional body cleanser that dissolves acid crystals from the kidneys, helping to detoxify the body. In this way, it also flushes away bad cholesterol and fatty deposits in the liver, kidney and gallbladder.
Does your urine sometimes turn pink when you eat beetroot? This is simply because the colour pigments in the vegetables are broken down and excreted. Although it’s nothing to be concerned about, research shows that the pigments are slightly more visible when iron levels, digestive enzymes and/or healthy colon bacteria levels are low. In this way, beetroot can be an indicator of how efficiently your digestive system is working.
The health benefits of beetroot depend on how it’s eaten, for example if it’s grated, juiced or cooked. Cooking often enhances the availability of the minerals.

As beetroot has a high iron content it helps fight anaemia. Check out tips that help avoid anaemia during pregnancy.

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Sweet potato
The humble sweet potato is one of the safest foods to eat if you have a problematic digestive system. These root veggies are also so nutrient dense that they can almost entirely sustain you. Sweet potatoes, especially the darker orange varieties, are high in antioxidants and particularly rich in beta-carotene, a potent lung and skin protector. They furthermore detox the system by binding to heavy metals.
Sweet-potato soup is lovely in winter, and is a gentle form of slow-releasing carbohydrates that will help keep your energy and “happy-hormone” levels up at this time of year.

Other winter rarities
Go for a variety of winter vegetables to keep things interesting! The following veggies could be more difficult to find, but if you do spot them, they’re well worth a try:

- Jerusalem artichokes.
These store carbohydrate in the form of inulin (a soluble fibre) rather than sugar, making it particularly useful for diabetics and the control of blood-sugar levels. Inulin is also a food source for the good bacteria in your gut.

- Globe artichokes.
Cynarin, an acid in these artichokes, increases bile production in the liver. This, in turn, rids the body of cholesterol and fat, and boosts a sluggish liver.

- Nettles.
These combat allergies and are a good source of iron. Try a nettle soup, especially when allergies such as hay fever return at the start of spring.

- Shiitake mushrooms.
These flavourful mushrooms are potent in terms of immunity and longevity, and are rich in protein, B vitamins, chromium and vitamin D.

- Winter squashes,
such as marrow, butternut and acorn squash, are rich in vitamin A. Marrow, consisting of 95% water, also acts as a diuretic and a low-calorie alternative to other forms of squash.

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