Winter Harvest Offers Vitamin-Packed Choices
Add some nutrition and variety to your daily diet
The winter harvest offers an abundance of nutrition-packed options, so it’s a great time to add some variety to your daily diet.
“Yellow and orange-colored squashes are awesome nutritional packages and are plentiful throughout fall,” says Alison Holloway, M.D., a family medicine physician affiliated with Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
Just one cup of butternut squash offers more than 400 percent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for vitamin A and nearly half of your RDA for vitamin C. Strongly colored root vegetables such as beets and sweet potatoes offer similar nutritional benefits and are loaded with antioxidants. Research suggests that antioxidants offer protection against heart disease and some cancers.
“You cannot beat the nutrition for less than 100 calories. Try pumpkin, acorn squash, winter squash or other varieties you find this season. Pumpkin butter is a high-nutrition/low-fat alternative to other spreads—with lots of flavor. My family’s favorite is spaghetti squash. When cooked, it does look just like spaghetti!”
Healthy Fats and Fiber
“Apples are another awesome choice,” says Dr. Holloway. “Although not a huge powerhouse in terms of antioxidants, apples are a great source of fiber. Just be sure to eat the apple skin to get all the nutrients. And consider using apple butter as a low-fat alternative to butter.”
Sunflower seeds are an often-overlooked source of nutrition. When those huge flowers wither, don’t throw the seed head away.
“Sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats. You can eat the whole seeds (with the shell) for roughage,” says Dr. Holloway. “Without the shells, sunflower seeds are more calorie-dense, so use sparingly.” Squash and pumpkin seeds also offer healthy fats.
A Winter Cornucopia
Look closer at your farmer’s market stands or grocery stores, and you’ll find a cornucopia of healthy choices well after the fall produce reaches its peak.
Fresh rutabagas, as well as kale, chard, spinach and other dark greens, are available as late as December and are considered an excellent source of essential nutrients like Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Potassium. Some contain 20 percent or more of these nutrients per serving.
Add a splash of color to winter salads and entrees while staving off seasonal colds with winter fruits like kumquats, pomegranates, persimmons and guava, as well as citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines. All of these fruits are considered good sources of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and antioxidants.
The chemicals that make these and other fruits and vegetables colorful make them healthy. So regardless of the season, let nature’s colors be your guide to good health.
“Eat the rainbow every day,” Dr. Holloway advises.