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Warm up with these winter warmers!

Seasonal eatingDelicious healthy foods are available throughout the year and winter is no exception. Here are some great ideas for nutritious and warming winter menus, using recipes and ideas from nutritionist Sarah Schenker.

When the cold winter months arrive, our focus naturally moves to eating food that is warming and filling. Thankfully, some of the vegetables and fruit in season at this time of year are ideal, such as root vegetables - parsnips, carrots, swede and turnips - which are very versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, including wonderful soups, stews and casseroles.

The pick of the winter crop

Fruit and vegetables available at this time of year are all full of essential winter vitamins and minerals. Eating oranges, kale, clementines or satsumas provides a good dose of vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system and reduce the risk of catching a cold.

What's more, seasonal food is fresh, tasty and, if you buy locally, a good way of supporting the local economy.

If you'd like to incorporate seasonal foods into your menu, there are plenty of great vegetables and fruits to consider, each with their own nutritional benefits.

Here are Sarah's top picks for winter ingredients.

January

  • Kale. Curly or smooth-leaved kale is a green leafy vegetable that is native to the UK. It is packed with antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene. The beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which is needed for infection resistance, night vision and healthy skin. A 100g serving of kale provides 75 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and twice the amount of vitamin C. Kale is also a good source of vitamin B and folate. It also contains some iron but, because iron isn't particularly easy to absorb, it's advisable to eat kale along with other foods rich in vitamin C (such as peppers).
  • Brussels sprouts. Love them, or hate them, Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous vegetable family - like cabbages - and have an intense smell and flavour. They're a rich source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Brussels sprouts also contain bioflavanoids and nitrogen compounds called indoles, which may reduce the risk of some cancers. To get the full nutritional benefits of Brussels sprouts, they're best eaten lightly cooked.
  • Parsnips. A healthy alternative to potatoes, parsnips are a sweet starchy vegetable. They're an excellent source of fibre, which helps maintain good bowel function and may help protect against colon cancer. Parsnips also contain vitamins C and E, as well as folate that's needed for healthy blood cells. Parsnips are at their sweetest a few weeks after the first frost.
  • Cranberries. These colourful red berries contain significant amounts of antioxidant compounds that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Cranberries also contain proanthocyanidins that can prevent the adhesion of certain bacteria, including E. coli, to the urinary tract wall, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections.

February

  • Carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant and helps prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. Unlike most other vegetables, carrots are more nutritious eaten cooked rather than eaten raw, so they are a great vegetable to include on your plate.
  • Leeks. Leeks provide potassium, which is needed to balance body fluids. Leeks can help counteract the effects of excess sodium (salt) in your diet, keep blood pressure normal and encourage efficient functioning of the kidneys. Also in season through the winter months are:
  • Chicory
  • Clementines / satsumas 
  • Oranges 
  • Swede 
  • Turnips 
  • Winter cabbage 

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