Top 8 Super Foods for Winter

Super foods. What a brilliant concept: Simple, healthy foods teeming with antioxidants that patrol our bodies and smack down those villainous free radicals, thus taming cell destruction. Many say that the antioxidant action provided by superfoods protects against cancer and heart disease, among a host of other more common ills like the cold and flu. But here’s the real joy – superfoods taste amazing!

For the sake of sustainability  we know how important it is to eat as locally as possible, which makes eating fresh superfood fruits and veggies more of a challenge. But during colder months, we can open the door to preserved foods and winter produce. These are the unsung superstars–the dried, frozen, cold-stored and cruciferous crew…they may not glam up like their bright and shiny summer cousins, but they are clearly the humble heroes here.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has an amazingly high antioxidant level with an added bonus in that it may help you better regulate your blood-glucose levels. Although I realize that cinnamon’s not exactly a “local” product for those of us not in Indonesia, it doesn’t seem like the worst offender in terms of carbon footprint–one little stick goes a long way. Sprinkle on oatmeal or 100% whole wheat toast, coffee or peanut butter!

Pecans: Pecans have shown to significantly lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). Frequent consumption of nuts is associated with a lowered risk of sudden cardiac death and other coronary heart disease, as well as a lower risk of Type II diabetes in women. Nuts make a wonderfully nutritious mid-day snack and add flavor punch to any dish such as salads, veggies, soups, meats, etc. Truly, the possibilities are endless. Oh, and don’t forget those amazing nut butters which take you far beyond your basic peanut butter – almond, cashew, etc.

Dark ChocolateA Penn State-led review of the available evidence from 66 published studies, supports the view that consuming flavonoid-rich chocolate, in moderation, can be associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. Chocolate that is minimally processed and has the highest cocoa content (which means the darkest chocolate) has the highest level of flavonoids. With dark chocolate, even eating as little as 30 calories per day can have a moderate effect. (But more can make you really happy.)

Apples: In addition to high anti-oxidant levels, apples have a huge array of excellent health benefits. Red Delicious apples scored the highest for anti-oxidant levels on the USDA list; but I’m sure the USDA didn’t tackle a huge variety of apples for testing. Along with the high antioxidant magic from apples, they are also rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol.

Frozen BlueberriesBlueberries are the rock stars of high-antioxidant fruit and vegetable family–they have a super high ORAC level, are widely available, and easy to eat. Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil. Frozen blueberries work well plain, on cereal, in smoothies–and incorporate nicely into baked goods.

Prunes: I know they generally go by the more rustically-glamorous, marketing-friendly name of dried plums these days, but I say, call a prune a prune. Prunes are very high in anti-oxidants, and are a good source of energy in the form of simple sugars, yet they do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar concentration,due to high fiber content.  Additionally, the high potassium content of prunes might be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Plums are an important source of boron, which is thought to play a role in prevention of osteoporosis.

Red or Kidney Dried Beans: An excellent source of protein, antioxidants, folic acid, potassium, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, beans are flavorful, nutritionally dense, inexpensive and versatile.

Cabbage: A New York Times article in December suggests that cabbage is the most important [vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability. Cabbage possesses phytochemicals including sulforaphane, which studies suggest protects the body against cancer-causing free radicals, and indoles, which help metabolize estrogens. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids.

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