I've heard a lot of old wives' tales about staying healthy in the winter, from always covering your head to drinking hot water with lemon and honey. While I've got nothing against a cute hat, I'm sticking with science, more specifically, the science of food. In the winter, our immune systems are challenged by the cold and the plethora of viruses roaming around playgroups, classrooms and public transportation, so give your immune system a boost with these five winter power foods.
This member of the cruciferous vegetable family (home of cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) packs a one-two punch in nutrition. Broccoli is extremely high in vitamin C (just 3.5 ounces of raw broccoli gives you more than your daily intake), along with dietary fiber. Broccoli has also been found to have anti-cancer properties. For a quick lunch, sauté broccoli florets in olive oil and toss with pasta. Add garlic for extra flavor... and health benefits.
Garlic has long been used for medicinal purposes, and modern medicine agrees: garlic is a nutritional powerhouse. Not only can garlic help prevent cancer and heart disease, it has proven to reduce cholesterol and fight coughs and infections. Garlic is also a natural anti-fungal. Place several whole garlic cloves (unwrapped) in a ramekin or small baking dish. Add a generous amount of olive oil and cover with foil. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, and squeeze the garlic out of the cloves: you'll be left with sweet roasted garlic that you can spread on bread or add to pasta sauces.
In college, I was famous for buying crates of clementines and handing them out to people, "so you don't get scurvy." (To be fair, if anyone is at risk for scurvy, it's pizza-and-beer consuming college students.) Clementine tangerines are everywhere in the winter, and these tiny members of the orange family make for a perfect on-the-go snack. Clementines are high in both vitamin C and beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, helping to fight resperatory infections. As an added bonus, clementine skins, like the skins of all citrus fruits, can help you get the garlic smell off your hands!
These classics of the Thanksgiving table are usually so loaded with butter and marshmallows that no one even thinks of calling them a super food, but sweet potatoes, rich in carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium and fiber are one of the best things you can be giving your body this winter. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast on a foil-lined pan for a half an hour at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Split and add a bit of butter and some cinnamon sugar for a sweet side dish, or try one of our many recipes:
- Grilled Sweet Potato Steaks with Maple Pecan Butter
- Sweet Potato, Pineapple and Cheddar Salad
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch
Kale has become trendy as of late, and for good reason! Not only is this leafy green easy to find in the winter, kale is very high in beta carotene, lutein and vitamins C and K. Like with all vegetables, kale loses some of its nutritional properties when cooked, so try eating this nutritional powerhouse raw in a salad. For more kale recipes, check out our guide!