Eating seasonally benefits not only local farmers and the environment, but also the quality of your overall diet. For example, the Seasonal Food Guide tells us, “Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season.” That means consuming fall and winter vegetables and fruit in the cold months and eating spring and summer fruit and vegetables in the warm months.
So when the weather gets cold and the local outdoor markets tend to shut down, what vegetables grow in the winter?
Examples of cold-weather crops that can usually be grown successfully even when it’s frigid outside include:
These are rich in nutrients, including vitamins C, A and K, plus fiber, that support a healthy gut and immune system during the coldest months of the year.
Using these veggies, you can make healthy and hearty recipes like crockpot soups, mashed potatoes, or roasted winter vegetables with herbs and olive oil. Read on to find out more about the best vegetables to purchase and grow during the winter, plus specific reasons why they make healthy additions to your diet.
Winter vegetables are those that can grow even when the weather is very cold outside, including when there’s a frost. The benefit of opting to eat produce during the time of the year when it’s in season, including during the winter, include:
Some types are considered root vegetables because they grow below the ground. Many of these veggies (such as carrots, potatoes and beets) are higher in starch and sugar than other varieties of veggies, but this actually helps them thrive in cold climates.
Some winter veggies actually develop a higher starch/sugar content when temps drop in order to help them withstand frost, which contributes to a delicious flavor (yet another reason to eat seasonally!).
Not all winter produce falls into the root vegetable category. Cruciferous veggies also grow in the winter, such as broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
Here are some of the more well-known vegetables that grow throughout the colder months of the year:
What makes some winter vegetables excellent additions to your diet? Here are some of the benefits associated with our top 12 picks for winter vegetables:
Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) are a great source of prebiotics, including inulin, which help feed healthy probiotic bacteria in the gut. They are also high in essential minerals like potassium, iron and copper.
Broccoli is high in fiber, cancer-fighting compounds like glucosinolates, antioxidants such as carotenoids, chlorophyll, vitamins E and K, essential minerals, phenolic compounds, and more.
Kale is packed with flavonoid antioxidants, including quercetin and kaempferol; plus vitamins A, C and K; B vitamins; calcium; copper; manganese; potassium; and magnesium.
Not only do Brussels sprouts taste great when roasted, but they are full of antioxidants that help fight cancer, fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Cauliflower makes an excellent substitute for potatoes in low-carb recipes and is high in essential vitamins, carotenoids, fiber, soluble sugars, minerals like folate and potassium, and phenolic compounds. Various antioxidants found in cauliflower — including beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin and kaempferol — can help reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Like other dark greens, escarole is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin K and iron. It’s also a great source of several antioxidants and polyphenols, including caffeic acid, vitamin C and flavonols, which promote healthy aging.
All varieties of cabbage are low in calories but high in filling fiber (including insoluble fiber, which supports digestive health), as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and antioxidants, such as anthocyanins.
Beets are unique because they’re one of the best dietary sources of nitrates, which help promote healthy blood flow and blood pressure. They are also a great source of fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C, not to mention protective compounds including betanin and vulgaxanthin, which fight inflammation.
Adding carrots to your diet is a smart way to up your intake of vitamin A/beta-carotene, which supports healthy skin and vision/eye health. Carrots are also high in antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which further support healthy aging and fight free radical damage, as well as vitamin K, potassium, thiamine, niacin and fiber.
Fennel is a veggie known for promoting digestive health thanks to the presence of unique compounds that give this veggie anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-tumor and antispasmodic properties. Fennel bulb contains a number of disease-fighting phenolic compounds, including bioflavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, coumarins and hydroxycinnamic acids, as well as potassium, vitamins C and A, and B vitamins.
Nutritionally, winter squash has many things in common with sweet potatoes, including being high in vitamin A (alpha-carotene and beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, fiber, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, and polysaccharide carbohydrates.
Chicory root is most often used to make herbal tea that has digestive-soothing effects. It can make a great replacement for coffee and helps regulate loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation and bloating. It’s also high in fiber and acts as a prebiotic — plus it supplies manganese and B vitamins.
Looking for simple ways to add more fall and winter vegetables to your meals? Several ideas include:
Give these healthy winter vegetable recipes a try:
Looking for a list of winter vegetables to grow in your own garden? Some of the easiest veggies to grow in home gardens throughout the coldest months of the year (usually November through March in the Northern Hemisphere) include:
Here are tips for sustaining a successful veggie garden throughout the winter:
Although most people can benefit from adding a variety of winter vegetables to their diets, those with certain medical conditions may have to limit or avoid some varieties due to the presence of certain types of carbohydrates or minerals.
For example, people who are sensitive to FODMAPs may need to limit the amount of cruciferous veggies they consume, and those with kidney-related issues may need to watch their potassium intake from root veggies due to the effects on kidney function, especially if they take medications to control their blood pressure.
Some winter veggies, such as beets and squash, are also a bit higher in carbs and sugar compared to non-starchy veggies, so they may need to be eaten in only small amounts if someone is closely watching blood glucose levels or following a low-carb diet or keto diet.
The post Top 12 Winter Vegetables to Eat & Grow (+ Benefits & Recipes) appeared first on Dr. Axe.