To celebrate Nutrition Month 2014 in March, I’m putting the spotlight on fruits and vegetables. These not-so-secret-weapons for improving health are great natural sources of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. Due to fast-paced lifestyles, modern agricultural practices and food processing, our diets have evolved — but not for the better, nutritionally speaking. As a result of these changes, many people don’t receive sufficient vitamins and minerals from their diets.
During long winter months, our nutrient-challenged existence is even more pronounced. How can adults aged 19 to 50 fulfill Health Canada’s recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? My advice: think the rainbow. You can achieve your nutritional goals by eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables every day. The best produce choices will always be those that are local and organic from your year-round farmers’ market. Many local growers also offer fresh salad greens from the greenhouse and late-season, root-cellared storage vegetables, such as garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, squash, turnip, cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts and celeriac.
Since the produce is local, the nutritional value will be much higher than food that has been picked before it’s ready and shipped far. So when it comes to shopping at a chain grocery store, do your best to purchase produce during its natural season. Most fruits and vegetables aren’t grown in Canada at this time of year, but you can find delicious and nutritious options if you buy food during its peak season in its country of origin.
Here is my list of top 5 fruits and vegetables you should eat this winter:
Ruby red and packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant goodness, this ancient fruit is great for reducing cholesterol and improving heart health. Pomegranates are also at their juicy best in the winter months.
Your taste buds will thank you any time you add these orange spuds to your mashed vegetable mix. Sweet potatoes provide fibre and an antioxidant boost from beta-carotene which helps improve eye health. You’ll also spare your body the rush of blood sugar from ordinary white potatoes.
From the cruciferous family, these tiny green cabbages are cancer-fighting superstars and more potent than their broccoli cousin. Brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinates which help lower inflammation and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease as well as breast, lung and colon cancers. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin K and flavonoids which support detoxification and free-radical scavenging.
The onion’s milder cousin is at its peak from fall to early spring. In fact, your local grower may be digging them fresh from the ground well into winter. Leeks are a great source of antioxidant sulfur compounds and vitamin K. They also help detoxify the body which may aid in cancer prevention.
Frozen Wild Blueberries
Frozen at their peak of freshness to help their nutrients remain intact, wild blueberries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin, shown to reduce inflammation, improve brain function and delay age-related degenerative diseases. You’ll be reminded of summertime all year-round with these blue beauties.
In winter, food sources alone may not be sufficient to provide all the vitamins and nutrients you need. Beneficial Vitamin D and Omega-3 supplements help improve your mood, immune function and energy. If you are not confident that your diet can provide all the essential nutrients, a natural source multivitamin formula can be your best health insurance, delivering a broad spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Always consult with your healthcare provider before adding supplements to your diet.
Lastly, don’t let the frost-covered ground discourage you. Spring is just around the corner, and you’ll be enjoying sunshine, warm weather and fresh local produce in no time.
Sylvie Normandeau is a mother, wellness warrior and nutrition blogger who has been immersed in health and wellness issues for 14 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition degree and works as a lifestyle coach, yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner.