Eat your way through these top 50 winter power foods
TASTE's very own nutritionist Chrissy Freer has pulled together the top 50 foods that she thinks every Australian should be eating this winter.
They're all seasonal, available from the supermarket, affordable, nutritious and delicious.
How many can you pack into your favourite winter dishes?
Cauliflower is low-kilojoule, fibre-packed and makes a great low carb alternative to your favourite comfort foods. Use to make mash, as a topping for pies and casseroles, or try cauliflower 'rice' with your favourite curry. It is also a great source of Vitamin C, just one cup of raw cauliflower florets contains 50 per cent of your RDI.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of low-fat, low-GI plant protein. Chickpeas are also an excellent plant source of the mineral zinc, with 1.8mg per cup cooked. Zinc plays an important role in immune function, can assist in fighting infections and may be effective in reducing the length and severity of colds. The outer layers of chickpeas are also rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which may reduce the risk of certain diseases and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Miso is made from fermented soy beans and grains, and a result of this fermentation process it is rich in beneficial bacteria (probioitics) which may aid digestion, immunity and help restore gut flora. Miso is also rich in protein and contains several nutrients including copper, manganese and zinc.
Chewy and nutty barley is the prefect low GI grain to add to your winter soups and casseroles. Packed with beta glucan soluble fibre (linked to the reduced risk of heart disease) and insoluble fibre (for maintaining a healthy bowel and reduced risk of colon cancer). Barley is also an excellent source of selenium, one of the body's antioxidant nutrients, defending against oxidation and supporting immune function.
Brown and fuzzy on the outside with bright green flesh, kiwifruit is an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin C. In fact, kiwifruit contains more Vitamin C than oranges (weight for weight)! They are also a good source of fibre, which assists digestive health, and contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, linked to eye health.
Beef is an excellent source of Vitamins B12 and B6, both required for energy metabolism as well as being rich in zinc and iron. The iron found in red meat (called haem iron) is more easily utilised by your body than iron from plant (non-haem) sources. Iron is required to produce haemoglobin and transport oxygen, as well as supporting a healthy immune system, likewise zinc is essential for a healthy immune system and growth.
Another member of the highly acclaimed cruciferous family, Brussels sprouts contain cancer-fighting compounds such as bioflavonoids and indoles, which act by inhibiting hormones that may promote tumour growth. These mini cabbages are also rich in immunity boosting Vitamin C, with just 1/2 cup raw sprouts containing more than 100 per cent of your RDI.
Sunflower seeds are packed with Vitamin E (essential for immunity, healthy skin and eyes) and selenium (an antioxidant that works in conjunction with Vitamin E, helping protect cells from free radical damage). They also contain thiamin, copper, iron, zinc, fibre and a good dose of heart-healthy fatty acids.
Carrots are the richest source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is also the precursor of Vitamin A. The more vivid the colour, the higher the beta carotene content. Vitamin A is required for healthy bones, hair, skin, immunity and eye health including the prevention of night blindness. Carrots are also a good source of dietary fibre and potassium.
Garlic adds a lot more than just flavour! Fresh garlic contains the active compounds allicin and allion, with proven antiviral properties that can help fight infection such as the common cold and flu. Garlic is also helpful in reducing nasal congestion associated with colds.
Creamy oats make the perfect warming winter breakfast. Even better, oats contain more soluble fibre than any other grain! They are rich in beta glucans, proven to help lower cholesterol, improve blood glucose control after meals and insulin response. Oats are also rich in protein, and nutrient rich containing iron, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
Not only is broccoli packed with disease and cancer fighting compounds, it is rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, iron and potassium. To top it off, it is high in dietary fibre and low in kilojoules. One cup contains 100 per cent of your RDI for Vitamin C and a massive 6g of dietary fibre, great for maintaining bowel health. Make sure you use the broccoli stems as well as florets, as they are a valuable source of fibre. We love roasting broccoli for warm winter salads.
Almonds are a versatile and delicious source of plant protein (about 20 per cent), high in dietary fibre (around 12 per cent) and packed with heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Almonds also have an impressive Vitamin E content with just one serve (30g) of almonds, providing at least 70 per cent of your RDI. Vitamin E is an important fat soluble vitamin and antioxidant, required for healthy red blood cells and muscle tissue. Almonds also contain good amounts of the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium.
14 Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are rich in essential oils and have great digestive and carminative (anti-flatulence) properties. Often added to digestive tea blends, they are the perfect antidote to rich winter meals. Fennel seeds also contain powerful antioxidant compounds linked to the protection of certain diseases such as cancer.
Humble spinach is also a superhero when it comes to nutrition. Super low-fat and low-calorie (only 12 cals per 50g!), spinach is also loaded with nutrients such as folate, magnesium, Vitamins A and C, beta carotene, calcium and iron. Its high antioxidant content is linked to a reduced risk of many cancers including breast, prostate and ovarian.
Yoghurt contains active bacteria (probiotics) that can help counteract harmful bacteria in the gut and boost your immune system. Yoghurt is also rich in calcium and Vitamin D, both required for healthy bones and teeth, as well as containing a good serve of protein and B vitamins. Always choose unsweetened varieties to avoid unnecessary added sugar and additives.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are required for several important roles including; cognitive function, visual development and acuity, cell membranes, hormone production, immunity regulation, anti-inflammatory roles and disease prevention.
Bananas are an all-time healthy and portable snack for very good reason. They are an excellent source of the mineral potassium, linked to assisting lower blood pressure, as well as maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Bananas are also a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which may have a calming influence, making bananas the perfect late night snack.
Mushrooms add a natural meaty flavor to dishes, are virtually fat free and low in kilojoules, as well as being rich in B complex vitamins, potassium and rich in the antioxidant selenium, which can help boost your immune system. Certain varieties such as shitake are also known to inhibit viruses, boosting the production of immune fighting cells.
Freekeh is wheat that is picked whilst still green, and is therefore higher in nutrients. It contains higher levels of protein, dietary fibre, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc than mature wheat. Additionally, freekeh is low GI and rich in the antioxidants lutein and Zeaxanthin, associated with the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
Leeks add a wonderful flavour boost to soups, braises and casseroles, and like all members of the onion group may have a protective effect against certain diseases such as colorectal cancer. Leeks may also help to lower cholesterol levels and contain folate, fibre, Vitamin E and iron.
22 Black beans
Black beans (like all members of the legume family) contain the winning combo of high protein and high fibre content. Just 1/2 cup cooked black beans contains over 8g dietary fibre (over 30 per cent of our RDI). Their distinctive outer coating is rich in anthocyanin pigments, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and heart disease. They're perfect in winter soups, curries or as a filling for quesadillas.
Green peas, being fresh members of the legume family, are a good source of protein. Additionally, peas are an excellent source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and pectin, a type pf soluble fibre linked to regulation of blood cholesterol levels. Peas are also a good source of potassium, niacin and folate. Add to curries soups or try as a mash with chopped fresh mint and a little yoghurt.
Apples contain pectin, a type of soluble fibre linked to reducing cholesterol levels, as well as valuable antioxidants such as quercetin, which also has a protective role against heart disease and cancer. Just make sure you eat the skin too, as the skin is a valuable source of fibre and other nutrients.
Eggs are nutritional powerhouses. Just one serve (2 eggs) provides a substantial 12 grams of protein. A vegetarian source of Vitamin B12 (only found in animal products), eggs are the perfect food for vegetarians. Eggs are also packed with several other nutrients including Vitamin A, B vitamins, iodine, iron and Vitamin D. The yolk contains all the egg's fat content, just under half its protein and most of its nutrients.
Beetroot is low in kilojoules, with only 200kj per 1/2 cup cooked, as well as being a good source of folate, manganese, potassium and packed with dietary fibre. Beetroot's distinctive colour comes from betacyanins, plant pigments that act as powerful antioxidants that may help to lower the risk of heart disease. Traditionally, beetroot has also been used as a liver detoxifier. It is delicious roasted and added to warm salads.
Citrus fruits are best known for their high Vitamin C content (essential for the formation of collagen) and acting as an antioxidant, protecting cells against the damage of free radicals. They are also rich in flavonoids, with anti-inflammatory and cancer protecting properties. Citrus fruits such as oranges are low GI, so make a wonderful sweet treat for those with diabetes.
This spicy fermented cabbage is low-kilojoule, rich in dietary fibre and contains several nutrients including Vitamins C and A. Kimchi is also a dietary source of probiotics, live microorganisms that in adequate amounts may ease symptoms of digestive discomfort, assist in regaining the balance in our gut of 'good' and 'bad' bacteria, and even strengthen our immune system.
29 Lean turkey
Turkey meat (without skin) is extremely lean and protein rich, containing a massive 30g protein per 100g cooked for only 150 calories. Turkey is also extremely low fat, being lower in saturated fat than lean red meat or chicken. Turkey is also a good source of B vitamins, (essential for energy production) and thigh turkey meat is an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium, essential for your immune system.
Kale is your winter warrior! Just ½ cup of cooked kale contains 100 per cent of your RDI in Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that aids your body's immune defence and strengthens resistance to infection. Likewise, kale is packed with beta carotene, converted to Vitamin A and essential for immunity, in addition to eye and bone health. Top it off with cancer fighting compounds that protect your cells from free radicals.
These tiny seeds pack a big nutritional punch. Chia seeds have the highest plant content of omega 3 fatty acids, with associated health benefits such as cardiovascular health, cancer and diabetes prevention, relief from joint stiffness and improved mental health. Rich in soluble fibre, sprinkle over porridge, soups or warm salads for a fibre and protein boost.
Versatile pumpkin can be used in a multitude of both savoury and sweet winter recipes. Pumpkin is naturally sweet and low in kilojoules, yet high in fibre and a good source of potassium, important for blood pressure control. Like all brightly coloured orange vegies, pumpkin is also rich in beta-carotene, with essential antioxidant and immune function.
Sage has traditionally been used for its antimicrobial properties, used to treat a variety of ailments from sore throat to upset stomach, mouth ulcers or even as a mouth wash. There is also research indicating that sage may assist memory.
Walnuts are loaded with the omega 3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid, which is not only good for our brain function, but may also reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. Their high fatty acid content does mean they are also high in kilojoules, so moderation is the key. They are packed with antioxidants such as ellagic acid, which may inhibit the growth of cancer tumours and contain a good dose of protein and folate. Sprinkle over warm winter salads and soups.
Versatile quinoa can be used to make warming gluten-free porridge, pilafs, risotto or added to hearty soups and stews. Even better this ancient pseudo grain contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a rare complete vegetable protein source. Rich in dietary fibre, it's therefore linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. It is also high in manganese and a good source of phosphorous, magnesium and folate, essential for new cell formation.
Turmeric is the spice responsible the bright yellow colour of curry power. As well as adding a ginger/pepper flavour, the active compound in turmeric (curcumin) is also well known as a natural remedy, with many health benefits. These include being a natural anti-inflammatory, combating colds and flu, having a positive effect on cholesterol levels and aiding digestion.
37 Manuka honey
Manuka honey is highly regarded for its antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It Is also proven to be effective against certain bacteria, and can therefore be used to ease sore throats, treat wounds and even stomach ulcers. It is a rich source of antioxidants linked to improved immunity, and is still effective when exposed to heat, so you gain the benefits even after cooking.
Dark green leafy veg are winter essentials. Packed with Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that assists immunity and synthesis of collagen, silverbeet is also rich in Vitamin K, beta carotene, fibre and folate, essential for pregnant mothers to reduce risk of neural tube defects in infants. Add to soups, stews and warm salads.
Sweet potatoes are rich in immune-boosting antioxidants carotenoids, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Carotenoids are also essential for growth, cell development, healthy skin, gums and bones. Packed with dietary fibre, both soluble and insoluble, sweet potato has cholesterol-reducing properties and is known to promote bowel health.
Extra virgin olive oil is higher in disease fighting anti-oxidants such as lignans which may protect against cancer, due to minimal processing. It also contains polyphenols, with the ability to reduce inflammation. EVOO is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (around 75 per cent) which assists heart health by reducing cholesterol.
The perfect substitute for mayo or butter on sandwiches, although high in fat avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats which are heart-friendly and do not raise cholesterol levels. In fact, avocados contain beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that acts to help reduce cholesterol absorption. Avocados are also a good source of Vitamins C, E B6 and a surprising source of dietary fibre.
Chillies contain a compound called capsaicin, responsible for the heat in chillies (mainly found in the seeds and membrane). Capsaicin is also responsible many of the health benefits of chilli which include aiding digestion, relieving joint and nerve pain, and may even boost metabolism. Chillies are also packed with immune boosting Vitamin C.
Cabbages are members of the cruciferous family, a family well known for its impressive protective properties against certain cancers, including lung, colon, ovarian and breast. Low in kilojoules and high in fibre, cabbages are also rich in Vitamin C, especially the red variety. Add to stir-fries, soups or try wilted cabbage as a warm winter side dish.
Apple cider vinegar has been used for over 2,000 years to assist with a myriad of health issues including indigestion, arthritis, wound healing and even to fight infections. Recent scientific studies are exploring the potential of vinegar to reduce the response to carbohydrate load in adults, and therefore its possibility as an adjunct therapy for diabetes. There is also some evidence it increases short term satiety.
Linseeds (also called flax seeds) are rich in brain-boosting and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, as well as being a good source of iron, essential for transporting oxygen to our cells. Linseeds are also rich in Vitamin E, B vitamins and high in soluble fibre, making them a good source of probiotics, for good gut health.
Ginger contains active ingredients including paradol and zerumbone, with known antimicrobial properties that may help fight viruses such as the common cold. Strong anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger can also help ease a sore throat, whilst its high antioxidant content boosts immunity. Fresh ginger is higher in its active components than dried, so therefore more effective.
Lentils in their various forms (brown, red, green, yellow) are kings of the plant world, packed with plant protein and dietary fibre, both soluble and insoluble. This not only assists in reducing cholesterol levels but can also help stabilise and regulate blood sugar levels, as well as assisting bowel health. Lentils are also a rich source of folate and magnesium. Add to soups or casseroles, or why not try dahl, a perfect winter warmer.
48 Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are the king of selenium, being the richest dietary source of this antioxidant (just 2 nuts provide you with your RDI!) Selenium is essential for defending against oxidative stress, immunity and regulating thyroid hormones. Brazil nuts are also a good source of plant protein, dietary fibre and healthy fats. Sprinkle over porridge or eat or keep on hand as a portable snack.
It is not just an excellent serve of calcium and Vitamin D for healthy bones that is on offer here. Milk is also an affordable and excellent source of protein, as well being rich in Vitamin B12, which plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. Milk is also a good source of zinc, phosphorous and magnesium. It's perfect to make creamy porridge or for a warming turmeric latte.
50 Green tea
Green tea contains several flavonoids, with one sub-group named catechins, being primarily responsible for many of the health benefits green tea offers. Green tea contains the highest concentration of catechins of all teas, with associated benefits including: assisting in preventing infections, reduced risk of heart disease and possible protection against certain cancers.