Published December 17, 2010
Each season brings with it a new and bountiful crop of food. Even during the winter months —which typically bring less to the table — there's certainly no lack of healthy options for the fitness-conscious man. Whether you're looking to buff up, burn fat or keep your immune system primed and ready, there are plenty of cold-weather delicacies that offer a full nutritional complement to keep you in top form.
Many of the foods we enjoy during the warmer months are actually available year-round, but winter offers the perfect opportunity to branch out and experiment with some of the bolder fruits and veggies that hit their peak in the dead of snow season (some veggies actually survive out in the cold with no added protection!).
So get creative, be fearless and pay attention as AM breaks down the top 10 fresh winter foods to help you ward off that seasonal funk.
Season: August-March, but typically October-November; can be stored most of winter
Butternut squash is just one of many varieties of winter squashes, but it’s probably the most versatile, offering full-bodied flavor no matter how it’s prepared — roasted, toasted, puréed or mashed. Butternut squash is also an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that may help ward off heart disease and certain cancers.
Pound for pound, Brussels sprouts contain nearly 50 percent more vitamin C — a powerful antioxidant and potential cold-fighter — than oranges. In fact, just four to six sprouts are enough to satisfy an adult's vitamin C daily requirements! But it’s more than the vitamin-C content that has health buffs praising this crunchy winter veggie: Brussels sprouts also contain nitrogen compounds called “indoles” that have been linked to anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory actions. Brussels sprouts are also a great source of folate, fiber, vitamin K, and magnesium.
Tart and tangy with a hint of sugary sweetness, grapefruit are the perfect winter fruit. Grapefruit are not just loaded with vitamin C – they are also packed with lycopene, an antioxidant also found in green tea. Lycopene appears to have anti-cancer properties and has recently been associated with reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men. With loads of other healthy phytonutrients and flavonoids, grapefruit are a shoo-in to any winter-foods top-10 list.
Season: Year-round, depending on variety; winter varieties available
A cruciferous veggie that comes in a handful of different varieties, the cabbage — particularly the red cabbage — is a winter nutrition powerhouse. Packed with vitamins A, B6, C and K, red cabbage is probably best known for its anti-inflammatory action, which is driven primarily by glutamine (an amino acid that’s also thought to boost the immune system) and anthocyanins (the plant pigments that give red cabbage its color). Served raw or boiled, this versatile veggie has been associated with the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease thanks to its nutrient-rich content.
While chestnuts are a well-known staple food of the Christmas season, they are rarely eaten outside of the holidays. However, chestnuts are a classic, healthy all-winter food — a great source of B vitamins as well as potassium, copper and manganese — and the perfect choice for the active, muscle-building male. Chestnuts are also one of the only nuts that contain vitamin C, making them a must-have for cold and flu season!_________________________________________________________________________
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Top 10: High-Energy Foods _________________________________________________________________________
Rapini (or broccoli rabe)
Season: Year-round, but primarily October-March
Rapini is a bitter-tasting, herb-like veggie that is less popular than its distant relative, the turnip, but its nutritional content is just as impressive. Rapini comes fully loaded with vitamins A, C, K, and folate, and also contains a healthy complement of minerals like calcium, manganese and even iron. Rapini is also a great source of lutein, an antioxidant thought to protect the eyes from oxidative damage, reducing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Season: Year-round, but peak season runs November-December or April-May
Typically orange- or yellow-fleshed, sweet potatoes offer all the versatility of white potatoes with incomparable nutritional content. With very few calories and virtually no fat, just one medium sweet potato contains 0.14 ounces of fiber plus 0.07 ounces of vegetable protein. But sweet potatoes also stand out for their vitamin and mineral content. Alongside all that fiber is loads of vitamins A, C and B6, as well as potassium and manganese. Sweet!
Season: Year-round, but peak season runs October-May
Like onions or garlic, leeks are part of the allium family of vegetables, a family that’s rich in disease-fighting phytonutrients as well as vitamins and minerals. More specifically, leeks are loaded with antioxidant polyphenols like kaempferol that are thought to protect blood vessels. With a healthy complement of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate and iron, leeks rival other allium family members in nutrient content. But the good news doesn’t end there: Studies have linked high allium intake with a lower risk of colon and prostate cancer.
Season: Year-round, but peak season runs October-March
Everyone's heard of turnips, but can you honestly say that you knew their leaves were often sold and eaten separately? If not, then it’s time you got acquainted with turnip greens, because these pungent leaves are just what the doctor ordered. One cup alone provides over 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamins A and K, 55 percent of the DV of vitamin C, 27 percent of folate, and around 10 percent of calcium and manganese. No wonder turnip greens rank among the strongest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods you could eat.
Season: Year-round, but typically peaks in April-June in cold climates
Although not exactly a winter-only food, garlic is so nutritionally important that it should be eaten year-round. In fact, whole books have been devoted to praising the glories of garlic, with particular attention to its long list of sulfur-containing compounds (especially allicin). With studies linking it to the prevention of cancer and heart disease, as well as suggesting it has anti-inflammatory and even anti-infection properties, garlic is a pungent superfood that should be included in any healthy diet — whatever the season!