Eating “seasonally” is defined as including foods within your diet that are grown at the same time of the year you are eating them. Seasonality also depends on the region you live in and may require that you consider what a reasonable standard of travel distance is for your produce. When you buy what’s in season, you buy food that’s at the peak of its supply and costs less for farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store. So, if you are purchasing Florida citrus now, it still has a long way to travel but will be less expensive and at its peak than other times of the year. Also, buying foods that are in season, or have been frozen while they are in season, ensures the highest level of powerful antioxidants.
Winter months in the northeast present a challenge but there are still plenty of nutrient-dense foods to start looking for:
Packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, asparagus is a nutrient-dense food that is high in folic acid and is also a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine, which helps your heart, digestion, bones and even cells. Steam, grill, or bake until asparagus turns bright green – be sure not to overcook.
- Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe contains lutein, an antioxidant that protects the retinas of your eyes from damage caused by free radicals. Sauté with a bit of olive oil and garlic and enjoy with a sprinkle of sea salt and crushed red pepper.
- Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, a group of nutritional powerhouse vegetables that are especially important for helping to fight cancer because they protect against free radical damage, oxidative stress, and DNA-mutation. After trimming the ends and removing the loose outer leaves, cut sprouts in half and toss with some olive oil, salt, and lemon zest. The addition of lemon helps cut the bitter and sometimes sulfur flavor associated with cruciferous vegetables.
The powerful nutrient combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C and choline in grapefruit all help to maintain a healthy heart. Here is a link to effectively remove the bitter pith of the grapefruit so you can enjoy the sweet, juicy flesh!
Kohlrabi is a rich source of carotenes, including beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant compound in the body, particularly in the ocular area. Peel, chop, and roast or add to soups.
This sweet, tart fruit is a very good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and is necessary for the health of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones. You can enjoy kumquats, skin on and raw. Cut them in half, pop out seeds, chop and add to salads or roast with your favorite protein or vegetable. They add a nice tangy kick!
Lemons are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids that work against infections like the flu and colds. Try sipping on warm lemon tea first thing in the morning. Steep lemon peel in simmering water for 5 minutes and let stand. Add some fresh lemon juice before drinking – it will wake up your digestion gently.
Mandarin oranges provide you with up to 80 percent of your daily vitamin C intake. Vitamin C helps destroy unstable molecules in your body known as free radicals via its antioxidant properties. Mandarins are the best portable snack. Enjoy with a handful of raw nuts.
Parsnips come packed with potassium and folate, two nutrients important for cardiovascular health. Potassium helps protects you from high blood pressure, while folate helps lower your blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with an increased risk of heart disease. We love parsnips roasted and in our soups. They have a strong flavor so we find it best to mix them with carrots, sweet potatoes, or other milder tasting root vegetables.
Papayas are very high in carotenoids that can reduce inflammation. They also contain natural digestive enzymes. Enjoy cubed with a squeeze of lime and some pistachio nuts.
By Julie Harrington, RD, CPC
Reviewed and edited by Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN