These nutrient-dense foods grow well in cold weather—and they possess powerful nutrients to improve your health.
When the cooler months roll around, all the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer disappear, and we lose more than just a few hours of daylight. If you are sad for the loss of your favourite summer superfoods, we understand your pain (we will miss you too blueberries and tomatoes, peaches and eggplant). But we do have some good news: the cold season is also full of winter superfoods.
All winter superfoods push a serious nutritional punch and are just waiting to be adjusted into your favourite cold-weather recipes.
What is a superfood? “Generally, a food is promoted to superfood star status when it delivers ample amounts of vitamins and minerals with antioxidant power, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is thought to offer several health benefits,” (registered dietitian Amy Shapiro).
Why should you eat more winter superfoods?
Before you assume that superfoods must be expensive, or hard to find outside of specialty stores, be confident that is not the case.
Go at your local grocery store or at your local farmers market, and you will find them: the superfoods, non-processed, whole, plant-based foods that can supply us with important nutrients like fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Want you to maximize the power of superfoods? It is simple: buy seasonal superfoods. That means they will be:
- cheaper, because they are in abundance.
- fresher, because they are often harvested at the peak of ripeness.
- more environmentally friendly, because they are harvested from local sources (which decreases the amount of fuel used to transport your food to the store).
- and more nutritious than their out-of-season equivalents.
What are the healthiest winter superfoods you should buy?
Are you low in potassium? Potassium can help reduce blood pressure by removing excess sodium from the body. Kale is the superfood! Pregnant women should also take note: kale is a great source of folate, a nutrient that helps form the fetal neural tube. A cold-weather plant, it peaks mainly in fall and winter. To add more kale to your diet, swap it out for spinach in your soups, prepare a savory pie, or shred it to make a salad.
2. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are bursting with vitamin C, making them ideal in the winter months when cold and flu season hits. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are also high in minerals and phytochemicals, i.e. plant-based chemicals the American Institute for Cancer Research says may help reduce the risk of cancer. Navel and blood oranges are ripe during the coldest, snowiest months of the year. Blend the flesh of oranges into your smoothies for a fresh flavor, mix up a grapefruit salad, prepare an orange pannacotta, or add lemon wedges to your afternoon tea.
Apples are a great source of vitamin C; getting adequate vitamin C is key for immune support (super helpful during cold and flu season) and apples also contain pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels. Apple season arrives toward the end of summer but often continues well into late fall or early winter, depending on where you live.
It is recommended to eat the peel of apples because a large percentage of the fiber and phytonutrients are found within the peel. My favorite way to eat an apple is as a snack with some almond or in a kale salad alongside roasted butternut squash or sweet potato. It is a fantastic companion of red and white cabbage and superb together with walnuts in a strudel.
Love it or hate it, you cannot disagree that fennel is a winter powerhouse. Fennel has a stellar nutrient profile that includes fiber, potassium, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. The peak season is fall through early spring.
Fennel has a strong licorice flavor, so not everyone likes it. Every part of the fennel plant is edible; you can eat the bulbs raw or braised, and cook the stalks and greens in soups, stuffing, or broths.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that fights free radical damage and inflammation. Their peak season happens from October to December.
Add diced sweet potatoes to soups and chilis whenever you are bored of baking them (although a baked sweet potato is a simple and yummy way to round out a meal).
I love leeks: they have a slightly milder taste than their onion relatives and can fit easily into most of your recipes. Leeks pair wonderfully with winter soups and salads.
Leeks are a substantial source of magnesium—a mineral that a lot of persons are deficient in, which can lead to anxiety and irritability.
They are in season beginning in October and last typically through early spring.
Parsnips are a root vegetable, which provide valuable digestion-improving fiber and folate, which can help build brain cells. They taste like a more flavourful carrot and can replace them in many recipes.
Most root veggies, including parsnips, are in season from fall until early spring. Try them added to soups and stews, roasted on a sheet pan alongside other winter vegetables, or boiled and mashed (like potatoes).
Pomegranate is high in polyphenols which are known to improve heart health, fight infection, and improve memory.
Yes, harvesting the seeds of a pomegranate is kind of a commitment, but it is totally worth making.
Easy to find from September to February, pomegranates are delicious in recipes. Try them on a salad or tossed into yogurt, smoothies, and chia or quinoa preparations.
Like apples, broccoli is a surprising source of vitamin C—one cup contains more than 100% of your daily needs.
Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain combinations which may be protective against cancer…more studies need to be done to determine the relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer, but the research that exists is very promising.
Broccoli is easily steamed as a last-minute side dish; you can also puree it into a creamy soup or pair it with beef. Broccoli’s peak season is October to April.
Photo: Jackelin Slack/Unsplash
One persimmon contains half of your daily vitamin A needs, and vitamin A is important for immune function and eye health.
Maybe you have never bought a persimmon before (and you are not alone), but you should give this fruit a chance. Despite their small size, these winter superfoods are incredibly nutrient-dense.
From October to February you can add persimmons to a salad or even reserve one for a sweet treat after dinner.
These dark red root veggies are high in folate, potassium, and beta carotene, nutrients making them a unique but nutritious addition to your table from summer to late fall.
They are not the easiest vegetable to cook with, but they are a winter salad staple. You can also turn them into a classic Russian-style soup (a.k.a. borscht) or even pickle them.
Usually associated with summertime (tacos and margaritas), but avocados are in season in winter (depending on the variety, avocados are ripest between August and December). The long list of avocado benefits includes a healthy fat content of omega-3’s, B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, and B6, and magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C, E, and K.
Try avocado hummus, the classic guacamole or an avocado soup… or even sliced avocado alongside warm chicken fajitas.
In season from late fall to early spring, cabbage is a wonder food thanks to high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and calcium, along with the fact that it is 92% water.
It is easy to incorporate cabbage into meals, too. Stuff it with ground meat and tomato sauce, shred it for homemade egg rolls, or pair it with potatoes for a warm, filling soup.
Ginger has been used for centuries to improve digestion, relieve upset stomachs, and increase your immune system. It is often available year-round, but the freshest roots are likely to be those harvested in the winter months.
Ginger is potent when it comes to flavor, so a little goes a long way for Asian-inspired dishes or fresh ginger tea.