Season's healthiest veggies
The winter harvest provides a colourful vegetable bounty. From hardy gourds to leafy greens, cold weather vegetables are at their nutritional best.
Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean fresh produce can’t be found. From hardy gourds to leafy greens, many vegetables not only survive the coldest months of the year but are also at their nutritional best.
Packed full of nutrients that strengthen the immune system and fight disease, the following 10 cold-weather veggies will help keep you healthy all winter long.
Just 1 cup (250 mL) of baked butternut squash contains over 450 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, a nutrient essential for a strong immune system, healthy skin, and good vision. Unlike other fruits and vegetables, which lose nutritional value after being harvested, the levels of vitamin A in squash actually increase during storage.
In season: August through March
Choose: heavy squash with smooth, dull rinds; a shiny rind may mean the squash was picked too early
Store: uncut: in a cool, dry place for up to three months; cut: store in the refrigerator for up to one week |
Serve: cubed and roasted with extra-virgin olive oil and sage; makes a yummy addition to vegetable lasagna
A true winter veggie, kale’s flavour becomes sweeter when this leafy green is harvested after the first frost. Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale contains isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that may inhibit breast, bladder, and lung cancer.
In season: September through February
Choose: small-sized kale with brightly coloured, crisp leaves
Store: in the refrigerator; for best flavour eat within three days
Serve: sauté in extra-virgin olive oil with roasted garlic and pine nuts
A close relative of the carrot, the parsnip is a hardy vegetable that contains a number of health promoting nutrients including vitamin C, folate, and potassium, an electrolyte essential for heart function. Studies have linked diets high in potassium to a decreased risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
In season: August through April
Choose: firm, small to medium parsnips; brown patches and numerous whiskers indicate spoilage
Store: in the refrigerator for up to one week
Serve: grated into a tossed green salad
When chewed, chopped, or digested, cabbage releases allyl-isothiocyanate. Researchers believe this chemical compound may be able to destroy colon cancer cells. To get the most cancer protection from cabbage, it is best eaten raw. In one population-based study, researchers found that women who ate a significant amount of raw or slightly cooked cabbage had a lower incidence of breast cancer.
In season: June through April
Choose: heavy cabbages with compact, deeply coloured, crisp leaves
Store: in the vegetable crisper; will keep two weeks whole or three days cut
Serve: shredded; makes a tasty addition to a taco
Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, the potato makes a healthy addition to any meal. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and iron. According to research from the United States Department of Agriculture, some potato varieties may even contain more disease-fighting phytochemicals than antioxidant-rich broccoli.
In season: July through March
Choose: heavy potatoes with smooth, unblemished skin
Store: in a paper bag, placed in a cool, dark space; will keep for up to three weeks
Serve: cubed, roasted, and added to a hardy vegetable stew
A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, cauliflower contains cancer-fighting isothiocyanates and is also a surprising source of omega-3 fatty acid. Researchers believe these healthy fatty acids may ward off a number of illnesses including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and even depression.
In season: December through April
Choose: heavy heads of cauliflower with compact florets, free of brown spots.
Store: wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to five days
Serve: drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and roasted with paprika and sesame seeds
Just five Brussels sprouts contain more than the recommended daily value of immune-boosting vitamin C. In addition to warding off the common cold, vitamin C has proven to be a powerful antioxidant that may protect cells from cancer, help lower blood pressure, and protect arteries from damage.
In season: August through March
Choose: small, firm sprouts with crisp leaves; yellowing is a sign of spoilage
Store: in the refrigerator for up to three days
Serve: sauté in extra-virgin olive oil and garlic; cook until just tender for best flavour
The same sulphur compounds that give onions their strong scent may also protect against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. In one animal study, researchers found that onions may decrease blood glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as reduce kidney damage in diabetics. Another preliminary study found that a certain peptide in onions could prevent osteoporosis by inhibiting bone loss.
In season: Year-round
Choose: heavy onions with papery skin; avoid those with visible sprouts
Store: in a cool, dry place with good air circulation; will keep for up to two months
Serve: vinaigrette: purée 1 onion in food processor; combine with 1/4 (60 mL) cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
A cross between a cabbage and a turnip, the rutabaga is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and thiamine, a B vitamin that helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Thiamine is also thought to strengthen the immune system and help defend the body against the harmful effects of stress.
In season: Year-round
Choose: heavy rutabagas with smooth, shiny rinds
Store: in a dark, cool, and dry place; will keep up to three months
Serve: battered and fried tempura style
Beet roots are a good source of betaine, a nutrient thought to decrease blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. A good source of vitamins A, C, and K, beet greens make an excellent addition to any salad.
In season: July through April
Choose: small to medium beets with dry, firm skin and fresh greens attached
Store: in the crisper for up to one week
Serve: sliced and tossed into a green salad