5 foods you should eat this winter
Although there are fewer foods that are in season in winter than in summer, winter boasts some surprising health superstars.
There are some foods that are widely available and should be enjoyed during winter that can help battle the cold months.
They help to us keep warm and provide nutrients that are most necessary for the optimal functioning of our body during this season.
Here are five foods that dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson Shani Cohen recommend for a healthy and energetic winter.
Mushrooms are a great addition to any winter diet. Studies show that during winter our vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) levels drop because we spend more time indoors than outdoors in the sun. Mushrooms are a particularly great source of vitamin D.
What is even better, is that you can actually further enrich your mushrooms with vitamin D naturally by simply exposing them to sunlight for about 15 minutes before cooking.
Vitamin D helps to boost our immunity and is essential for optimal bone health. Besides for vitamin D, mushrooms provide a range of other essential nutrients like protein, vitamin C, iron, selenium, potassium and niacin. You can mix them into sauces, stir-fry them or add them as a side to your eggs for breakfast.
A comforting warm bowl of oats has numerous health benefits and is designed to provide us with the energy we need to start our days off on the right note. In addition to being very high in soluble fibre, oats contain plenty of energy-boosting B vitamins and magnesium to help balance our blood sugar levels and help manage our cholesterol levels.
Choose rolled oats or steel-cut oats over instant oats, as they contain more fibre. Fibre is very important for optimal gut health. The extra fibre also keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
You can enhance the flavour of your bowl of oats by adding a variety of toppings like berries, seeds, nuts, vanilla and cinnamon. I love that oats are very versatile too, you don’t just have to have it as a porridge – you can incorporate oats into smoothies, bars and homemade breads.
Fruits and vegetables
If you plan on leaving your home anytime in the next couple of months, chances are you are going to cross paths with germs. This is why it is essential to ensure that we eat enough vitamins and minerals to optimize our immune system.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, and are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. The chemicals that give fruits and vegetable their vibrant colours are called phytochemicals, which plays an essential role in our immune system.
Each colour has its own unique health benefits. For example, beta carotene is found in orange fruits like apricots and helps to maintain our skin health and appearance, while isothiocyanate is found in white vegetable like cauliflower and cabbage. So ‘eating a rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables is particularly important to ensure our bodies get all the essential nutrients it needs. It is recommended to have 5 servings of fruits and veg in a day.
Choose produce that is in season, such as apples, pears, citrus fruits, carrots, baby marrow and broccoli. It may be worth your while to check the frozen section too. These fruits and veggies are frozen shortly after being harvested, so they contain a great amount of vitamins and minerals.
To satisfy both your body and mind, we should be seeking out healthy comfort foods that make us feel full, warm and satisfied. We tend to often skip out on salads because they seem unappealing in cold weather which means it is quite common to eat less vegetables than we should during winter.
However, soup is a great way to get more fibre filled vegetables into your winter diet. Soup is winter’s perfect food. You can toss just about anything into a soup pot. To save on unhealthy fats and calories, choose to make a homemade soup rather than buying from the grocery store. Store-bought soups, whether fresh or tinned, tend to be quite high in salt, and often have cream added!
Make a batch of homemade soup on a Sunday for the whole week, and portion it out in to individual servings. The soup can then be frozen and defrosted on the go as a quick snack, lunch or even dinner.
Legumes, like beans, lentils and split peas are a healthy and inexpensive protein rich ingredient for winter recipes. They contain important nutrients like fibre and supply an impressive array of vitamins and minerals like iron, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Legumes are a great plant based protein for those who are vegetarian, vegan or those who simply want to include more plant based foods in their diet.
They have a hearty and meaty taste, which is why I recommend including them in soups, stews and curries. Try to buy the dried option of legumes which you can boil up yourself, instead of tinned ones as they are often preserved in salt water.