Do you want to know which are the healthiest winter vegetables? Today we eat all kinds of produce throughout the year due to their wide availability. However, it is always better to consume seasonal foods because they have the best flavour and retain their properties better.
Traditional Chinese medicine is full of wisdom and teaches us to live with the seasons. Read also “Winter and Chinese medicine: optimise your health” to know more.
Chinese medicine teaches us to eat the specific foods each season offers since those are the most suitable for that specific climate. Healthy winter vegetables are foods that provide the most energy so we don’t get sick and stay healthy throughout the cold season.
Eating seasonal foods is very easy in spring and summer, but it can be more difficult when the cold arrives.
However, there are vegetables that can endure the cold, even under a layer of snow. These are known as winter vegetables because of their ability to withstand cold and harsh weather.
These cold-resistant varieties can resist frosty temperatures due to the higher amount of sugar they contain (1).
The higher sugar concentration found in the water of these vegetables causes them to freeze at lower temperatures, which allows them to survive in cold climates. Therefore winter is the optimal time for harvest.
In the article we will talk about the healthiest winter vegetables and why you should include them in your diet.
The Swiss chard not only tolerates the cold very well but it’s also very low in calories and high in nutrients.
In fact, one cup provides only 7 calories but contains almost half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and meets the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
It is also a good source of vitamin C, magnesium and manganese (2).
In addition, dark green leaves and brightly coloured stems are full of beneficial plant pigments called betalains.
This vegetable is consumed abundantly in the Mediterranean diet which is considered one of the most beneficial for your health.
Chard is a very low-calorie food but is packed with vitamins and minerals. It also contains antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition Swiss chard improves and strengthens the function of the Large Intestine, Spleen and Stomach.
This popular root vegetable can be harvested in the summer months, but reaches its maximum potential and sweetness in autumn and winter.
Cold conditions cause carrots to convert stored starches into sugars to prevent water in their cells from freezing. This makes carrots taste extra sweet in colder climates.
This crunchy vegetable also turns out to be highly nutritious. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene that can be converted into vitamin A. A large carrot contains 241% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A (5).
Vitamin A is essential for eye health and is also important for the immune system, proper growth and development.
In addition, carrots are loaded with carotenoid antioxidants. These potent plant pigments give carrots their bright color and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Some studies suggest that a diet high in carotenoids may particularly help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer including prostate and breast cancer (6).
Carrots thrive in colder climates. They are full of vitamin A and powerful antioxidants that can help protect against certain diseases such as prostate and breast cancer.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition carrots improve and strengthens the function of the Liver, Spleen and Lung.
This leafy green vegetable is not only one of the healthiest vegetables, but also thrives in colder climates.
It belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes other cold-tolerant plants such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage and turnips.
Although kale can be harvested throughout the year, it prefers a colder climate and can even withstand snowy conditions.
Kale is also an exceptionally nutritious and versatile food. It is full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and potent plant compounds.
In fact, only one cup of kale contains the recommended daily intake of vitamins A, C and K. It is also rich in vitamins B, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium (7).
In addition, kale is rich in flavonoid antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Kale is a cold-resistant leafy green vegetable that contains an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition kale improves and strengthens the function of the Lung and Spleen.
Like kale, Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous family and are very rich in nutrients.
The small cabbage-like heads develop mainly during the cold months. They can withstand very low temperatures, so they are essential for seasonal dishes in winter.
Although small in size, Brussels sprouts contain an impressive amount of nutrients.
It is an excellent source of vitamin K. One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 137% of your recommended daily intake (10).
Vitamin K is essential for bone and heart health and is important for brain function (11).
Brussels sprouts are also a great source of vitamins A, B and C and manganese and potassium.
Fibre slows the digestive process and this helps to release glucose more slowly in the blood. It also means that there are less sugar spikes after consuming a meal rich in fiber (14).
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that can reduce high sugar levels and increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin (15).
Insulin is a hormone necessary for cells to absorb blood sugar. It prevents blood sugar levels from rising or falling too much.
Alpha lipoic acid has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that affects many people with diabetes (16).
Brussels sprouts are full of nutrients and are especially rich in vitamin K. It has a high content of alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant that can benefit people with diabetes.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition Brussel sprouts improve and strengthens the function of the Stomach and Large Intestine.
Similar to carrots, parsnips are another type of root vegetables with many special benefits for your health.
Like carrots, parsnips become sweeter as temperatures drop. This makes them a delicious complement to winter dishes. They have a slightly earthy taste and are highly nutritious.
One cup of cooked parsnips contains almost 6 grams of fibre and 34% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
In addition, parsnips are an excellent source of vitamins B and E, potassium, magnesium and manganese (17).
The high fibre content of parsnips also makes them an excellent choice for your digestive system. They are especially rich in soluble fibre that forms a gelatinous substance in the digestive system.
This can help delay the absorption of blood sugars, which is especially useful for people with diabetes (18).
Parsnips are highly nutritious root vegetables that contain an impressive amount of soluble fibre.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition parsnips improve and strengthens the function of the Lung, Stomach, Liver and Spleen.
Like kale and Brussels sprouts, cabbage belongs to the cruciferous family. Not to mention that it is also one of the most cold-resistant plants in the group.
This slightly bitter vegetable can withstand prolonged cold temperatures and has a more intense flavour after being exposed to frost.
Bitterness is associated with a high amount of calcium found in the plant. In fact, one study found that vegetables with the highest calcium content have a more bitter taste (19).
The amount of calcium is impressive. One cup of cooked cabbage contains 27% of the recommended daily intake (20).
Calcium is essential for the health of your bones, muscle contraction and nerve transmission, along with other important functions.
In addition, these vegetables are packed with vitamin K, which plays a key role in bone health.
In addition to being an excellent option to promote healthy and strong bones, cabbage is a good source of vitamins B and C, iron, magnesium and manganese.
Cabbage has a slightly bitter taste and is full of nutrients. It is especially rich in calcium and vitamin K, which are important for bone health.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition cabbage improves and strengthens the function of the Lung, Stomach and Large Intestine.
This vegetable is known for its pungent taste and crunchy texture. In addition some varieties are very resistant to cold and can survive to very low temperatures.
Radish is rich in vitamins B and C, as well as potassium (23).
Its pungent flavor is attributed to a special group of sulfur-containing compounds called isothiocyanates, which have been associated with many health benefits.
These powerful plant compounds act as antioxidants, helping to keep inflammation under control.
Radishes have been extensively investigated for their possible properties to fight cancer (24).
Although promising, more human studies are needed to validate its potential against cancer.
Radish is an excellent source of vitamins B and C, as well as potassium. In addition, it contains isothiocyanates, which may have the ability to fight cancer.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition radish improves and strengthens the function of the Stomach, Large Intestine and Lung.
While many herbs disappear when the weather is cold, parsley can continue to grow at lower temperatures and even with snow.
In addition to being exceptionally resistant to cold, this aromatic herb is full of nutrients.
Only 28 grams meet the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and contain more than half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
It is also full of vitamin A, folic acid, iron, calcium and potassium (25).
Parsley is an excellent source of flavonoids, such as apigenin and luteolin. These plant compounds have many potential health benefits. Flavonoids can be particularly useful for inhibiting memory loss and age-related changes in the brain.
One study found that a diet rich in luteolin reduced age-related inflammation in the brains of aging mice and improved memory by inhibiting inflammatory compounds (26).
Parsley is a herb that tolerates cold well and is rich in nutrients. It also contains the vegetable compound luteolin, which can promote brain health.
In Chinese medicine and nutrition parsley improves and strengthens the function of the Stomach, Bladder and Kidneys.
The healthiest winter vegetables are those that thrive in colder climates.
Certain vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, even acquire a sweeter taste after exposure to frost.
These cold-resistant vegetables are an important addition to your diet throughout the winter.
While any vegetable on this list would be a very nutritious addition to your diet, there are many other winter vegetables that are also excellent options.
After all, adding any fresh produce to your diet will greatly contribute to improving your health and reducing diseases.
To your good health!