Vitamin C is the go to supplement during winter for many families, but green leafy vegetables such as spinach, silver beet, cabbage, broccoli and kale are absolute super foods, chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too.
We are a bit spoilt in Australia as we can generally find most fruit and vegetables on the supermarket shelves at any time of the year. However, eating with the seasons whenever possible will mean your fruit and vegetables will be at their freshest, likely to be better quality and rich in flavour. With winter being just around the corner and the incidence of colds and flu set to increase we looked at ten winter fruits and vegetables that will help you and your family to keep colds and flu at bay.
1. Sweet potato - Brightly coloured sweet potato is rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene1 and also contains vitamin E.2 Beta-carotene is from a family of brightly coloured compounds found in fruit and vegetables.2 Beta-carotene and vitamin A are antioxidants, helping to protect our cells from free radical damage and helping to maintain healthy immune function. Vitamin E helps maintain a healthy immune system as well as supporting a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
2. Green leafy vegetables – when you think of green leafy vegetables think of spinach, silver beet, cabbage, broccoli and kale as well as those delicious Asian greens such as bok choy, choy sum and baby pak choy. These types of vegetables are absolute super foods, chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help to support our general health and immunity. They contain vitamin A, betacarotene, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.1 While often not a favourite amongst fussy eaters most of these vegies can be chopped up and hidden in pretty much any meal!
3. Garlic – Simply adding a clove or two of garlic to your cooking during winter can help to boost your health. Garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and a number of health benefits including supporting immune function, helping to relieve cold symptoms such as mucous congestion and coughs as well as helping to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
4. Beetroot – As well as being a great source of immune boosting vitamins A and C, these brightly coloured vegetables are full of antioxidants and are a source of iron.2 3 Not getting enough iron in our diet can reduce our general health and wellbeing and may affect the functioning of our immune system.
5. Pumpkin – Pumpkin is another bright orange vegetable that has to go on the list because who doesn’t love a bowl of warm pumpkin soup during the colder months, yum! Not only does it taste good but pumpkin soup can help to keep us healthy as well. Pumpkins are another great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene1, those wonderful immune boosting nutrients. In addition to this, dried pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are a vey rich source of zinc.2 Not getting enough zinc in our diet can impair our immune function. Zinc can also help to reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
6. Kiwi – Many of us have heard or read at sometime that vitamin C is helpful for supporting our immune health and beneficial when we have a cold. But did you know that Kiwi fruit is one of the most highly concentrated sources of vitamin C?4 And that’s why it’s made it on this list! Kiwi also contains Vitamin E and potassium.4
7. Mandarin – The only citrus fruit that is actually easy to peel and just perfect for lunch boxes is in season during winter and in addition to be a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, mandarins also contain folic acid.5 Folic acid helps to maintain our general well-being and is needed to maintain normal blood.
8. Paw Paw – Paw paw, also know as papaya, not only contains the immune super stars of nutrients – vitamin A, beta-carotene and folic acid1 but it also has the added benefit of being a source of lycopene.2 Lycopene is an anti-oxidant that decreases the risk of cell damage caused by free radicals and helps to maintain our immune health. Paw paw also contains digestive enzymes such as papain that can help to aid our digestion.6
9. Banana – Now that bananas are affordable again (thank goodness) they are a must have snack during winter. Absolutely bursting with nutrients bananas contain magnesium, potassium, chromium, folic acid and vitamin B61 to help support healthy winter bodies.
10. Ginger – Ok, of course ginger is not a fruit but it is such a lovely warming spice to use in your winter cooking that it just couldn’t be left off this list! Finely grate some ginger root and add it to your soups, stir-fry’s or even straight into hot water with some honey to make a tea that is not only delicious and nice on sore throats.
1 Natural Standard – Vitamins and minerals found in foods; 2013; http://naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/all/generic-vitamins_and_minerals_found_in_foods.asp?; Date accessed: 8th February, 2013
2 Braun, L and Cohen, M; CD to Accompany Herbs and Natural Supplements, An Evidence Based Guide 2nd Edition; Elsevier; Australia; 2007; page 78, 737, 824, 1328, 1382
3 Natural Standard – Beetroot Juice May Reduce Blood Pressure; 2012; http://naturalstandard.com/news/news201204030.asp; Date Accessed: 8th February, 2013
4 Natural Standard – Kiwi; 2013; http://naturalstandard.com/databases/sports/all/kiwi.asp?#undefined; Date Access: 8th February, 2013
5 Natural Standard – Tangerine; 2013; http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/tangerine.asp?;Date Accessed: 8th February, 2013
6 Natural Standard – Papaya; 2013; http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/papaya.asp?#mechanism; Date Accessed: 8th February,2013