5 Winter Produce Items With Surprising Health Benefits

As we near the end of this year, a new season arrives; one that brings cooler weather. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is a supply of fresh, in-season ingredients that can offer you a great addition to your healthy diet.

From sweet citrus to root vegetables, winter produce offers a wide range of flavors and health benefits you and your family can enjoy. Below, we explore some of the top in-season produce and the health benefits each provides.

1. Beets

Classic red beets can be found in your local grocery store year-round, but the primary season for these vegetables usually extends from November through the winter months. Fresh beets can also be found seasonally on restaurant menus, especially fine-dining establishments. 

Not only are these root vegetables delicious and easy to include in your favorite recipes, but they also provide a wide variety of health benefits, including:

  • Beets are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, including fiber, vitamin B9, potassium, manganese, iron, and vitamin C.
  • They contain inorganic nitrates, which can lower blood pressure by up to 4 to 10 mmHg over just a few hours. This can lead to a reduced risk of stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks.
  • Beets can improve your oxygen use, which may enhance your athletic performance.
  • Beets are fiber-rich which is beneficial for digestive health and can reduce the risk of several chronic health conditions.
  • Beets can increase blood flow to the brain, potentially reduce the risk of dementia, and improve cognitive function.
  • Thanks to a high-water and low-calorie content, beets can be beneficial for weight loss.

To select the best beets, choose small- to medium-size beets with no soft spots and smooth skin. Make sure the stems and leaves are also still attached.

Interested in other seasonal foods that can help boost your immunity? Read our blog on Immune-Boosting Seasonal Foods to Incorporate Into Your Healthy Diet.

2. Pomegranates

The pulp and seeds of a pomegranate can offer a sweet-tart flavor to many winter recipes, plus it’s rich in antioxidants. Here are a few health benefits to consider:

  • Pomegranate can protect your body from free radicals, which are harmful toxins and responsible for premature ageing.
  • This tart fruit can help prevent blood clots, thanks to the antioxidants that act as a blood thinner.
  • The antioxidants in pomegranates can also help prevent bad cholesterol from oxidizing.
  • Pomegranates reduce inflammation and help fight the enzyme that can damage your cartilage and cause arthritis.
  • Some studies claim that the juice from pomegranates can slow the growth of cultured cancer cells and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Adding pomegranate to your everyday healthy diet can give you a great source of fiber and aid your digestion.
  • This fruit is also rich in vitamin C, which boosts the production of antibodies and can help strengthen your immunity.

To select the best pomegranates, choose the ones that are bright in color, free of blemishes, and that feel heavy.

3. Blood Oranges

Blood oranges are a delicious and nutritional addition to salads, marmalades, salsas, and a variety of winter recipes. There are two popular varieties: dark-fleshed Moro available from December through March and Tarocco available from January through May. Both varieties include the following health benefits

  • They contain anthocyanins which help fight off free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • Blood oranges contain vitamin C, which increases the development of antibodies to fight infection and can treat or help prevent scurvy disease.
  • Rich in vitamin A, this fruit can also help maintain the health of some tissues and your skin.
  • Blood oranges contain folic acid, which help fight off heart disease and even some cancers.
  • High in calcium, this fruit can help build strong bones and teeth.

To select the best blood oranges, choose the ones that are heavy for their size and firm.

4. Kumquats

In season from October through June, fresh kumquats are a bite-sized fruit that offer a citrus flavor. Unlike other fruits, the peel is edible and sweet while the inside is tart. Here are some of the many health benefits of this unique fruit:

  • Kumquats are notable for their rich supply of fiber and vitamin C, aiding in digestion and strengthening your immunity.
  • This grape-sized fruit also supplies vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc. The peel and edible seeds also provide a small amount of omega-3 fats.
  • About 80% of the weight of a kumquat is water and they are low in calories, making them a very hydrating fruit and great addition to a healthy diet.
  • Some of the fruit’s flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidants, which can help protect against some cancers and heart disease.

To select the best kumquats, choose only firm fruit; test it with a gentle squeeze before purchasing.

5. Winter Squash

While winter squash including acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins can have an awkward appearance, they cook into a sweet, delicious vegetable. Winter squash are harvested in the summer and fall but because they store so well, they are available almost year-round at your local market.

  • Most varieties of winter squash are rich in vitamin C, which is known to boost your immunity and produce essential antibodies to fight off infection.
  • Winter squash also contains vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) as well as two antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease, certain types of cancer, and some eye problems. Often, the darker the squash is, the more beta-carotene it contains.
  • These vegetables also are a good source of riboflavin and iron.
  • Pumpkin in particular contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that are believed to help prevent cataracts and slow the development of macular degeneration. Want to learn more about the benefits of pumpkin? Check out our blog on 7 Foods With Surprising Health Benefits.

To select the best winter squash, choose ones that have a hard rind and feel dense. Make sure the stem and rind are undamaged.

Creating a Balanced, Healthy Diet With Seasonal Foods

While some of these winter fruits and vegetables might seem out of the box when it comes to your meal-planning, they offer a variety of vitamins and nutrients necessary for a healthy diet. If you aren’t sure how to incorporate these into your meals, we’ve got you covered. Download our free recipe book with simple meals you can prepare at home using these ingredients.

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