Just because it’s the middle of winter doesn’t mean there aren’t fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables to pick up from the grocery store. Here are six seasonal foods that are sure to add a nutritional boost to your cold-weather diet.
Important Note: Talk to your doctor about these foods before including them regularly to make sure it does not interfere with any medications or diet restrictions in your treatment plan.
- Winter squash. Winter squash is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and carotenoids. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your immune system function properly and protects against cell damage. Vitamin A is not only important for vision and immune function, it also ensures that the heart, lungs and kidneys are working properly. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can reduce the risk of some cancers. There are many types of winter squash, including butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and buttercup squash. Using a healthier preparation method like baking can bring out the natural sweetness of the squash, or you can use it as a main ingredient in your soup or stew.
- Leafy greens. Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens and mustard greens are all high in vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K helps strengthen your bones, prevents heart disease and is important to the blood-clotting process. These greens can be incorporated into many meals and snacks, such as soups, stews, casseroles, smoothies, wraps and stir-fry.
- Root vegetables. Beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and B. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and allows nerves and muscles to function properly, while fiber helps food move throughout your body. Try baking or roasting these as a snack or as part of your meal.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These are all good sources of vitamin K and are high in fiber. High-fiber foods can ease constipation, a common side effect during cancer treatment. Try mixing these foods in salads, stir-fries or roasting them on their own.
- Pomegranate. This fruit is popular around the holidays, but is available throughout the winter season. Pomegranates are a great source of vitamin C and vitamin K and are rich in antioxidants. You can incorporate this fruit into your day by adding it to your cereal, smoothie or oatmeal. You can also drink it as a juice. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice have been found to lower bad cholesterol, which is good for heart health. Be sure to read the nutrition label before buying the juice to be sure it is not diluted with other fruit juices and does not have any added sugars.
- Citrus. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, clementine, mandarin oranges, lemons and limes thrive during winter. Most varieties are juiciest and in season this time of year. They are loaded with vitamin C, which can help heal wounds, maintain healthy bones and cartilage, and enhance the absorption of iron from foods like leafy greens. Try including citrus as part of a salad by making a dressing out of it, or include it as part of your main meal!