Winter is a wonderland of seasonal produce that packs real nutritional punch. Unlike the brightly coloured, sweet fruits of summer, winter fare does take a bit more experimentation - but the results are well worth it. Here are the seven seasonal foods to pile onto your plate now.
Kumquats are a sweet and sour member of the citrus family that are consumed whole, including the skin. The peel is packed with sweet essential oils and phytochemicals that are cancer-protective and the sour inside is rich in Vitamin C. Enjoy them whole, chopped into a salad or preserve them in chutney.
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Horseradish is a pungent medicinal root with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It stimulates the production of bile and the enzymes that facilitate digestion. Try adding a teaspoon of freshly grated horseradish to roast beef, soup stocks or salad dressings.
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Ghee is a type of clarified butter used widely in Indian cuisine. It's very low in lactose and casein so even those with a dairy-intolerance usually have no problem eating it. Ghee is rich in the fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K and butyrate, which can decrease inflammation and nourish the digestive tract. Its high smoke point (250 degrees) make it great for cooking as it won't turn rancid and break down into free radicals like other oils. Use Ghee for deep frying, sautéing, baking, or drizzled over steamed veggies.
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The humble beetroot truly is a superfood. Liver-loving beetroot stimulates detoxification and the pigment that gives beets their purple colour, betacyanin, is a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant. Raw grated beetroot is ideal for treating constipation and has been shown to protect against colon cancer. Beet greens are even higher in nutritional value than the roots so don't discard them; add them raw to salads or try sautéing them (in Ghee!).
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Vegetables were traditionally fermented so they would last over the winter, which happens to be the ideal time to enjoy them due to their high levels of Vitamin C. Our immune system resides mainly in our gut so by feeding the microbiome with beneficial flora from unpasteurised sauerkraut you are strengthening your defense against cold and flu.
Radicchio (pronounced ra-dee-kyoh) belongs to the bitter chicory family along with endive. A staple in salads all over Italy but under-appreciated in Australia, radicchio comes with big health benefits. Bitter foods stimulate the liver to produce bile, which enhances digestion by emulsifying fats and rendering nutrients more available. Thanks to its deep red colour, radicchio is also an excellent source of antioxidants. Add it raw to any salad or cut it into wedges and roast it before topping with balsamic vinegar and shaved Parmesan cheese.
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Fennel has a unique aniseed flavour and a wide array of medicinal properties. It's an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium and fibre. As a tea, fennel is used as an anti-spasmodic, meaning it can ease the painful, cramping sensations of bloating. Fennel also has mild diuretic actions, which may be helpful in releasing water retention associated with PMS. Fennel is wonderful sliced raw in salads or braised and served as a side to seafood dishes; the fronds can be used as a flavourful garnish on seafood, salads and stews.
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