We’re all familiar with the disease-fighting benefits of broccoli, peas, beans, tomatoes and their ilk, even if we don’t regularly devour them. But consider the following often ignored color pleasing winter vegetables that not only boost our immune system during cold and flu season, but also aid in staving off heart disease and cancer.
Think orange. One baked sweet potato contains about twice the daily value of vitamin A plus high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin E — antioxidants that aid brain function, protect you from free radical damage, and could safeguard against heart disease. The sweet variety contains more fiber than white potatoes so we experience that satiated feeling sooner. An extra bonus is fewer calories too. Try slicing a sweet potato and grilling it. Coat the pieces with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle some cinnamon or nutmeg (grill both sides) and you have a healthy tantalizing treat.
Another nutrient, fiber, and potassium packed choice would be squash. It, too, contains a healthy amount of beta-carotene, which reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, helps control blood sugar levels, and just might aid asthma and arthritis conditions. For an easy squash soup, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté two diced onions until soft, about 10 minutes. Add one-fourth each of ground coriander and ground cinnamon, maybe a sprinkle of nutmeg and cook two minutes. Add two pounds of peeled diced squash and six cups of stock or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook squash until tender, add salt, pepper, and adjust other seasonings.
Go green. A diminutive relative of the cabbage, brussels sprouts are tastier in winter if you can find them still on the stalk. They contain significant amounts of phytonutrients that improve your body’s immune system and increase its ability as a disease fighter. Some studies have linked these little delectables to cancer prevention by assisting activation of detoxifying enzymes throughout the body. Possibly, this might augment elimination of dangerous, carcinogenic substances more quickly.
If you have a preconceived notion that these little guys aren’t palatable au natural, try this easy recipe. Place three cups of cold water in a medium saucepan fitted with a steaming basket. Place six cups of cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts in the basket. Cover, bring to a boil and steam for about six minutes. In a small saucepan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Whisk in about two tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Coat the sprouts with sauce and serve hot.
Before you zip past the kale at your market, consider that this wrinkled leaf variety of cabbage delivers more nutrition for fewer calories than almost any other food out there. It’s a premier source of vitamin C since only one cup contains over 80 percent of the daily recommendation. And you thought it was solely a garnish. Preparation is easy. Wash, remove stems from two large bunches and coarsely chop the leaves. Sauté with three or more cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil until soft. Add one half cup of stock or water. Cover and cook about five minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Remember your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier this year? The above vegetables and recipe suggestions are a positive start.
Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.