30 Winter superfoods to try
A superfood is a nutrient-rich food – high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – that is especially beneficial for health and well-being. Registered nutritionist, Nicola Shubrook discusses which of these nourishing foods to include in your diet
A superfood is a nutrient-rich food that is especially beneficial for health and wellbeing, as it is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re largely plant-based but do sometimes include fish or a dairy product. Here we look at the top 30 Winter superfoods you can try.
Discover more helpful health guides.
1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed full of vitamin A which helps support the immune system and eye health as well as digestive health. You can read more about the health benefits of sweet potato or try making this spiced chicken, spinach & sweet potato stew.
Carrots contain fibre, vitamin K1, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and also a number of antioxidants which help support health such as lowering cholesterol. Super versatile, try this simple yet delicious carrot & ginger soup or roasted carrot, spelt, fennel & blood orange salad for a lunch or light dinner.
3. Red cabbage
Red cabbage isn’t just for Christmas! It’s a good source of vitamin K, which we need for healthy blood clotting, and also contains some magnesium, calcium and zinc required for strong bones and teeth. How about trying this red cabbage with Bramley apple & walnuts or mulled red cabbage with clementines for a healthier side dish.
Pomegranates are most known for their high antioxidant and flavonoid content which help protect cells from damage. These antioxidants may also help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease. Try a winter salad with this feta, beetroot & pomegranate salad or make this quinoa stew with squash, prunes & pomegranate for a healthy dinner.
Yes, turnip is a superfood as it contains glucosinolates which may help prevent certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate. Turnips also contain lutein which is an important antioxidant for eye health. Cook turnip in this roasted roots & sage soup or perhaps this high-fibre vegetable balti dish.
This winter citrus fruit is a type of mandarin orange and despite its smaller size is packed full of vitamins, including vitamins A, C and B6. The mandarin is also rich in antioxidants in both its peel and its flesh, which have collectively been found to help protect the brain and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This chilli & tangerine braised lentils makes for a healthy side dish or a vegan main course.
Beetroot is a winter jewel that’s packed with essential nutrients, such a potassium and iron, which help support healthy blood flow and blood pressure. Beetroot also contains nitric oxide, which helps increase blood flow to your muscles, improving exercise performance.
A cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli or cabbage, horseradish earns its superfood status from its natural antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. Get four of your 5-a-day in this steak, beetroot, horseradish & warm lentil salad.
9. Butternut squash
Butternut squash is not only high in fibre, but also a rich source of vitamins A and C, which helps with both immune and eye health. It’s also a good source of antioxidants which research indicates can help improve memory and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Try this squash, chicken & couscous one-pot or Moroccan chickpea, squash & cavolo nero stew for a midweek meal.
Parsnips are a great source of fibre which may help improve healthy cholesterol levels. Containing potassium, vitamin C and folate, parsnips are important for the formulation and growth of healthy blood cells. How about a curried lentil, parsnip & apple soup or a spiced parsnip & cauliflower soup to keep the winter chills away.
11. Brussels sprouts
Love them or hate them, brussels sprouts are a superfood, thanks to their high-nutrient and fibre content. One serving of brussels sprouts can provide you with most of your daily vitamin K requirements, and their fibre and antioxidant content may help keep your digestive system running smoothly. Try this chilli-charred brussels sprouts recipe or toasted sesame sprouts for a more flavoursome side.
Probably one of the more well-known superfoods, kale is in season in the winter months. It’s possibly one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables around as it’s packed full of beneficial nutrients. Its antioxidants have been associated with heart health, lower blood pressure, anti-cancer and anti-depressant benefits, to name a few. Get all of your 5-a-day with this delicious chilli & ginger squash with kale & quinoa recipe or how about a twist on brunch with this mushroom brunch recipe.
We are talking about the actual berries here, rather than cranberry juice which can be high in sugar. Cranberries have long been known to help in the prevention of urinary tract infections, but they may also offer some benefit to gastric ulcers and heart health, thanks to their high antioxidant content. Rustle up this rustic braised beef with cranberries & spices for a delicious evening meal or spot of weekend entertaining.
UK pears are in season from September to January. As well as being high in fibre and vitamin C, pears are actually a great dietary source of the minerals copper and potassium which we need for a healthy immune system, cholesterol levels and heart function. Impress guests with this griddled pear with goat’s cheese & hazelnut dressing as a starter or make this wonderful winter warm beet, chorizo & pear salad.
Shaped like the brain for a reason, walnuts are an excellent source of the essential fatty acid omega-3. In fact, they contain more omega-3 – which has been shown to help with improving moods and reducing depression – than any other nut. Walnuts also contain the important antioxidant vitamin E, which research indicates helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline and improves brain function. Use up leftover turkey with this turkey salad with grapes & walnuts or start your mornings with walnut & almond muesli with grated apple.
Whether wild or cultivated, winter is mushroom season and with that comes lots of health benefits. Mushrooms have been shown to help decrease the risk of cancer and they’re one of the few food sources of vitamin D which is vital for healthy bones and immunity. In fact, did you know that leaving your mushrooms on the windowsill in daylight helps to increase their vitamin D content? Mushrooms are super versatile and work brilliantly in this hearty mushroom soup and in a spelt & mushroom risotto.
Whether it’s white, green or purple, the cauliflower is an everyday superfood. It contains lots of heart-friendly antioxidants and is also a source of choline which we rely to regulate our memory and mood. You can read more about the health benefits of cauliflower and try this red cabbage, cauliflower & coconut dahl containing two of your winter superfoods.
Salsify is a root vegetable that has an oyster-like flavour when cooked. It belongs to the dandelion family and looks like a long, thin parsnip with creamy white flesh on the inside and a dark, thick skin on the outside. Salsify is a good source of iron, which can help support healthy hair growth as well as red blood cell formation. This vegetable also contains important minerals for kidney health, including potassium, calcium and sodium. Try these delicious salsify crumpets for a breakfast or light lunch.
19. Purple sprouting broccoli
Purple sprouting broccoli is packed full of carotenoids, found in carrots and other red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids have anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce the risk of chronic disease and help improve cognitive function and heart health. Try this Asian-inspired dish with salmon, purple sprouting broccoli and sweet potato mash or whip up a purple sprouting broccoli with garlic & sesame as a side dish.
20. Savoy cabbage
Savoy cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect the body and the brain from chronic disease. It also plays an important role in collagen formation, thereby helping to keep joints healthy. Make this healthy side dish of savoy cabbage with almonds or perhaps try this French dish of one-pot cabbage & beans with white fish.
Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable and contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support general health. It’s a particularly good source of vitamin B6 that helps reduce inflammation as well as the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin B6 may also help with combatting depression and improving moods. Kohlrabi is great in a crunchy slaw. Try this peppery kohlrabi slaw or beetroot-cured cod with fennel & kohlrabi slaw for inspiration.
The humble leek packs a powerful punch when it comes to superfood status. Leeks contain a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins A, C and K1, as well as health-promoting antioxidants such as kaempferol which has been linked with a lower risk of heart attacks. You can’t go wrong with a leek, pea & watercress soup or how about pairing with Brussels sprouts for this creamy sprout, hazelnut & leek pasta.
Celery is a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants and just one stalk of celery contains at least 12 kinds of antioxidant nutrients. Thus celery is beneficial for helping protect cells against free radical damage, which can cause disease long-term, improving cardiovascular health and reducing high blood pressure. How about a celery salad for lunch or as a snack or a dinner of chicken with braised celery & cider.
Related to celery, celeriac is a root vegetable and a great source of all-important fibre which helps improve digestion and protect against such conditions as colon cancer. Celeriac is also a good source of vitamin C, especially when eaten raw. Vitamin C is important for many reasons, promoting healthy immune function, and healthy joints. Take a look at our top 10 celeriac recipes for some inspiration for this winter vegetable.
25. Jerusalem artichokes
A rich source of iron which helps to promote healthy blood flow and prevent conditions such as anaemia, Jerusalem artichokes also contain potassium which helps regulate blood pressure. This root vegetable is rich in phytonutrients for anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant benefits. Cholesterol levels, immune function and the digestive system are all supported. Indulge in this truffled Jerusalem artichoke soup or buttered Jerusalem artichokes as a side dish.
26. Swiss chard
A dark green leafy vegetable, Swiss chard, like kale, is packed full of nutrients including vitamin K which helps improve bone health, reducing the risk of fractures in conditions like osteoporosis. Try baked Swiss chard alongside your Sunday roast or pair it with seasonal kohlrabi in this Swiss chard & kohlrabi with lemon sauce.
27. Spring onions
When you think of summer salads, spring onions might spring to mind. But spring onions actually come into season at the start of the year. A member of the allium family of onions and garlic, spring onions have a mild, sweet taste, and have been shown to defend against cancer thanks to their high antioxidant and flavonoid content. Try this vegan teriyaki tofu with charred spring onions or how about steamed fish with ginger & spring onion.
Watercress contains powerful antioxidants including beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene has been linked to a lower risk of cell damage which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis. Other benefits of watercress include protection of blood vessels and kidneys, as well as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial actions. Boost your mashed potato with this watercress mashed potato recipe or go all out on your greens with a spinach & watercress soup.
This winter nut has a sweet taste and comes with a whole host of antioxidising health benefits. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to help protect eyes from blue light damage; while gallic acid and ellagic acid increase in concentration when cooked. Magnesium and potassium minerals help reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues, such as heart disease or stroke. Try this winter warmer of roasted squash, pancetta & chestnut risotto or jazz up your roasts with thyme & chestnut roast potatoes.
Quince is a pear-like fruit that must be cooked before eating. It contains important antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, while protecting again certain cancers and ulcers. Use quince in this delicious one-pot of sweet spiced lamb shanks with quince or try it in this delicious dessert – quince crumble tart.
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This article was published on 20 December 2022.
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