I don’t know about you, but as soon as the days get darker and temperatures get colder, I crave comfort food. But as I become more health conscious, my idea of comfort food has shifted. Now I find myself seeking out healthy stews, delicious ways to roast veggies, and one-dish slow cooker recipes.
So when nutritionist Holli Thompson sent over her book, Discover Your Nutritional Style, I was immediately glued to the chapter Winter Foods and Your Body’s pH. I learned that we crave meat and animal proteins in the winter (I will never get bored of classic beef chili) to fortify our bodies for the colder weather, but animal proteins actually make our bodies more acidic. Since we function better in a more alkaline state (the opposite of acidic), we should aim for a daily diet that consists of 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods.
So what are alkaline foods? Drum roll, please, for the buzz word: superfoods, particularly veggies that give you the biggest nutritional bang for each bite. Here is Holli’s list of the best winter superfoods that are in peak season right now and loaded with all the right vitamins to nourish your body during the polar vortex months:
This delicious, sweet, and starchy vegetable tastes like a guilty pleasure, but it’s actually a queen among superfoods. It contains high levels of carotenoids, which your body needs to make vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese copper, and potassium. One baked sweet potato even provides 26% of your daily fiber requirement.
For an easy and warming winter treat, cut a sweet potato into half-inch slices and steam them until they’re just soft. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. And, since fat helps your body absorb carotenoids, you can feel good about indulging.
Cabbage is high in vitamin C (which is beneficial for immune support), vitamin K, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, iron, antioxidants such as polyphenols, and fiber. The nutrients in cabbage are highest when you eat it raw or only lightly cooked, but they’re preserved even when cabbage is fermented or made into old-fashioned sauerkraut. I love cabbage in vegetable soups for a hearty fiber-rich stock.
Beets contain potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, B, and C. They’re also high in beta carotene, beta cyanine, folic acid, and fiber. They’re cleansing to the liver and work to purify the blood. Naturally sweet, beets are delicious roasted, pickled, or shredded raw in salads. These gorgeous red beauties can stain your urine pink, a sign that your stomach acid is nice and low.
One of my favorite sweet fruits, persimmon, or Diospyros, is the “fruit of the gods”. My grandfather grew persimmons, so I learned to love them at an early age. They deserve superfood status thanks to high amounts of vitamins C and A, as well as beta carotene and heart-healthy lycopene. Persimmons also contain manganese, iron, and calcium.
You can eat this fruit raw, but be sure that it’s completely ripe—unripe persimmons are bitter and leave a fuzzy taste on your tongue. A good test for ripeness is a gentle tug on the stem. If it pops off easily, the fruit is ripe. Try persimmons as a fresh fruit, in a smoothie, and in salads.
If you live in the south, you know what a collard green is. A New Year’s Day tradition says to eat Hoppin’ John, a dish of collards and black-eyed peas, to bring luck for the coming year. This super dark leafy green is high in vitamins A, C, and K, plus has lots of B vitamins, calcium, manganese, iron, and even a nice shot of protein.
Collards are perfect for winter because the hearty leaf needs to cook longer. They’re delicious sautéed with onions and garlic, or added to stews or soups. Or, try using a large collard leaf as a wrap, filled with hummus, avocado, and sprouts, for a healthier alternative to bread.
So the next time you’re searching for delicious winter comfort food recipes, look for ones that include these winter superfoods. Holli’s book has a lot of great ideas, as does her recipe finder, which, be forewarned, is highly addictive.
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