5 healing foods for winter

The weather turns cooler, coats emerge from cupboards, gumboots once more take up residence on the porch. And with the change of season, parents everywhere brace themselves for the onslaughts of colds and flu. Here we take a closer look at five important foods to include in your nutritional arsenal this winter, and some simple ways to prepare them to keep the whole household happy.

1. Apples

Rich in flavonoids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, apples are also rich in pectin, which is high in dietary
fibre and provides prebiotic benefits to the gut, as it increases beneficial bacteria and decreases the population of harmful bacteria.

In the kitchen

Slow-roasting cored and quartered apples with a little honey, a few knobs of butter, and a dash of water until soft makes a highly nutritious dessert option. The combination of fruit with fat increases bioavailability (the ease with which the body absorbs its ingredients).

2. Cabbage, Silverbeet, and Kale

These hardy crops are simple to grow at home, and can ensure a steady supply of great winter nutrition. Full of powerful antioxidants, which can help prevent and repair cell damage, and rich in vitamin K, cabbage
is particularly good for stomach health. Silverbeet is rich in minerals, including magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, and phosphorous. It is also packed with vitamin K, and rich in vitamins A and C. Growing three or four kale plants at home (in the garden or a pot) can supply a family of four for a week.

In the kitchen

Make an easy curried cabbage salad by combining sliced raw cabbage, shredded coconut, lemon juice, olive oil, and soy sauce with curry spices and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Using blanched silverbeet leaves in place of lasagne sheets is a tasty way to include this richly nutritious vegetable into your family’s diet. Cook the larger, darker kale leaves in stir-fries, or chop and throw into soups or hot dishes. Use the paler, smaller leaves in salads, or make a delicious smoothie by blending them with banana, milk, and peanut butter.

3. Lemons

Lemons are a versatile health food. Regular consumption of lemon juice, flesh and zest has been shown to strengthen the immune system, increase mineral absorption, reduce risk factors for heart disease and prevent kidney stones. If you don’t have a lemon tree in your garden, plant one immediately! (Or start growing one in a pot.)

In the kitchen

A glass of warm water mixed with the juice of a lemon first thing in the morning wakes up the digestive system. Make the most of your lemon harvest by preparing a jar of preserved lemons. Make four incisions in the lemons lengthways, press sea salt into the slits, and push lemons and more salt down into a preserving jar until the fruit is submerged by liquid. Seal jar, turn each day, and enjoy in a week or two. For a healthy sweet treat, mix 3 cups of shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, 1/3 cup of coconut oil, and 1/2 cup of runny honey together. Press the batter into a slice pan or cake tin, freeze until firm and cut into bars. Store in the fridge, if they last that long!

4. Broccoli

Enjoyed for over 2000 years, broccoli reigns as a superstar in the cruciferous family of vegetables. Packed
full of vitamin C (twice that of an orange), the antioxidant properties of broccoli make it a musthave immunity-booster. Broccoli contains as much calcium as milk, and is more easily absorbed. Its selenium content also gives it anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. Easy to grow at home, broccoli is suitable for New Zealand’s temperate climate. Its cousin broccolini, specifically bred for its tender, edible stalk, grows equally well, and a little faster when well fed and watered. Although broccoli is at its most nutritious eaten raw, it is also very good for you when cooked by blanching until just tender.

In the kitchen

Try a raw broccoli salad smothered in a dressing of mayonnaise, lemon and garlic with toasted slivered almonds and cherry tomatoes. Separate broccoli into small florets, blanch quickly in boiling water and then drain, and stir fry with garlic, ginger and soy, or your favourite sauce. Use broccoli florets for a dipping platter with hummus or yoghurt dip, then slice the stalks very finely and combine with shredded carrot, peanuts, raisins, and mayonnaise.

5. Meat

Full of protein, B vitamins, iron, and essential minerals, meat is a great regular addition to your family table to keep energy levels up when it’s cold outside. Slow cookers are a smart investment, and not only because you can set them in the morning and walk in the door to a tasty nutritious ready-made meal. Less popular cuts of meat and offal provide economical family nutrition when cooked slowly. Slow cooking improves the flavour of food while increasing the nutritional content and bioavailability of certain nutrients. For example, when cooked, tomatoes (a staple ingredient in many soups, stews, and casseroles) release more lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) than when raw.

In the kitchen

Beef heart is readily available and, when sliced and added to a beef and tomato stew with stock and seasoning, is undetectable to the fussiest palate. Including bones with your slow cooked meat, for example beef shins or lamb shanks, further increases your intake of nutritive minerals, and don’t forget to appreciate the succulent bone marrow.

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