The festive season is here and it brings a range of winter veg that’s perfect for nourishing meals to warm you up. These picks are also loaded with fibre and antioxidants to support immunity while you dodge the winter bugs!
Top of traditional winter veg, the Brussels sprout is highly divisive but there are some great reasons to give them plenty of love this festive season. Sprouts are full of antioxidants and compounds that are vital for good health.
Kaempferol, one of the most studied of these compounds, has been recently reviewed for its anti-inflammatory properties and support in disease prevention (if you don’t like sprouts you can find kaempferol in broccoli and apples too – also in season).
As a cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts are rich in sulphur. This is great news for your gut and your liver as it also means more glutathione production. Glutathione helps maintain the integrity of the gut lining, supports the gut to repair itself and aids detoxification.
They’re a fantastic source of fibre too – perfect for stabilising blood sugar levels and feeding the good bacteria in your gut.*
Not a fan? Hide them in a soup or chopped up finely stew to get the benefits. You’ll barely notice them!
*As a high-fibre food, Brussels sprouts can cause digestive problems if you have certain conditions. Their vitamin K content can also mean extra monitoring if you’re on blood-thinning medications. If any of this is you, let’s chat about how to balance your nutrition to avoid problems.
I’ll start by saying, sadly, a potato isn’t counted as one of our five-a-day. But potato is one of the best of British produce. Roasties and mash are always a staple on my Christmas dinner plate.
Sweet potatoes often get the nod over white potatoes due to the idea that they’ve got more nutrients but the humble white potato has a good level of nutrients too.
The potassium and magnesium content supports healthy muscles, nerves and heart (which is a big muscle). Potatoes also provide vitamin B6, which is used in over 300 processes in the body, and even a little bit of vitamin C for your immune system.
Potatoes also contain resistant starch. As it’s resistant to being broken down by digestion, it travels through your gut and feeds the good bacteria in your large intestine. We want resistant starch in our diet, to improve our digestive health and can improve insulin response after meals, reducing blood sugar levels.
But you may have heard that white potatoes can spike blood sugars due to their high glycaemic index (GI) score. This is true – stay with me. It’s all down to the cooking process which impacts how it’s digested.
So here’s my top tip for getting resistant starch, managing blood sugar levels and enjoying the British potato. Cook the potato, let it cool and then reheat it. Cooling increases the resistant starch by as much as 3 times and slows down the impact on blood sugars. And leave the skin – it contains additional nutrients and fibre.
Parsnips are an incredibly versatile root vegetable and in terms of taste, they come into their own in winter. Add them to soups, casseroles and curries for hearty, nutritious and delicious winter warmers. They roast and mash perfectly for winter veg side dishes too.
Parsnips are a member of the Apiaceae family, which is actually a flowering plant. Carrots, celery, parsley and coriander are in this family too.
They’re another immune-boosting vegetable, thanks to the vitamin C they contain. They also contain folate (B9) for energy and supporting the production of red blood cells.
Parsnips are a heart-healthy source of soluble and insoluble fibre. As well as the obvious benefits for your gut health, this combination can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, along with its rich potassium content.
Technically, a mushroom is a fungus and not a vegetable but don’t let that stop you from enjoying them and the many benefits they provide.
One of the reasons I love to highlight mushrooms at this time of the year is the positive impact they have on the immune system. They contain a compound called beta-glucans, which plays a key role in activating an immune response.
Even button mushrooms are loaded with nutrients including copper, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamin D – all essential for immunity and good health.
If that’s not enough, the antioxidants in mushrooms can protect cells from oxidative stress that can otherwise increase your risk of developing heart disease. Beta-glucans also continue to show a promising impact on reducing tumour growth and metastasis, and as a positive addition in cancer treatment.
It isn’t Christmas without cranberries!
Cranberries get their vivid red colour from anthocyanins, which have powerful antioxidant effects. They may be tiny but these berries pack a punch. They can help reduce a compound called homocysteine, which can cause damage to the lining of the blood vessels and the heart.
Cranberries contain compounds known as proanthocyanidins, which have natural antibacterial benefits and may help prevent the bacteria Escherichia coli (the bacteria that causes most UTIs) from attaching to the inner surface of the bladder and urinary tract (leading to an infection).
Don’t drink cranberry juice though, as the high sugar content feeds the bacteria and cancels out the benefits. Cranberry extract can be helpful, especially if you’re prone to UTIs. Speak to a registered Nutritional Therapist, to discuss the best course of action for you.
Winter fruit and veg side dish recipe
Festively flavourful, root vegetable side
- 4 large carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 400g Brussel sprouts, halved or quartered, if large
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 120g fresh cranberries
- 4 teaspoons local honey
- 150-200g walnuts, pecans and/or hazelnuts, halved or crushed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC. If required, lightly oil 2 large oven dishes or cover with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Place carrots and parsnips in one pan and Brussels sprouts in the other. Divide rosemary and olive oil between the pans and toss to coat.
Bake the carrots and parsnips for 30 minutes until they are tender and browned and the cranberries begin to soften.
- Bake the Brussels sprouts for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring once.
- Remove both from the oven and combine together in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with local honey, add the nuts and toss together so all ingredients are mixed and coated.
A deliciously festive, winter side dish full of flavour and nutrients to keep you healthy and happy!