If you’ve made a resolution to eat more produce in 2018 (a fantastic resolution, by the way), then take heed to these fruit and veggie powerhouses in-season in January. Consult the list at the conclusion of this post to see the health benefits of the nutrients cabbages, leeks and tangelos contain.
There are over 400 varieties of this cruciferous vegetable and all are at their peak this time of year. Here’s a profile of five varieties that are readily available:
- Bok Choy: Bok choy is common throughout Asia but is sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage. Visually, it resembles a cross between collard greens and romaine lettuce. It’s low in calories and high in fiber, making it a good choice for people trying to control blood glucose or lose body fat. It can be eaten raw but also holds up well to cooking. The nutrients bok choy packs are substantial: vitamins A, C, K and B-complex; minerals calcium and iron; phytochemicals carotenes, indole-3-carbinol, isothiocyanates, lutein, sulforaphane and zeaxanthin.
- Green Cabbage: The most common of all the cabbages and the one most likely to be used raw in coleslaws and braised in sauerkraut. Other common cooking methods are boiling and steaming. Green cabbage is off the charts in folate and vitamin C.
Red Cabbage: Considered the second most common cabbage, red cabbage is slightly sweeter than its green counterpart. It will turn blue when cooking unless an acid, such as vinegar, is added during the cooking process. Though radicchio, common in Italian cuisine, resembles red cabbage, it isn’t cabbage at all. Radicchio is part of the chicory family and has a strong bitter flavor and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for red cabbage in recipes. Red cabbage has high amounts of vitamin C and anthocyanins.
- Napa Cabbage: Like bok choy, napa cabbage is common in Asia. It’s very mild, similar to celery in flavor and resembles romaine lettuce. It’s best eaten raw or added to stir-fries. Napa cabbage is a good source of calcium.
- Savoy Cabbage: Bluish-green outer leaves with deep green inner leaves, savoy cabbage is more tender than the green and red varieties with a milder, sweeter taste. Their pliable leaf shape and size makes them ideal for stuffed cabbage recipes.
Leeks are part of the allium family but, unlike their cousins onions and garlic, they don’t form from bulbs. Like all alliums, leeks have lots of sulfides. Enzymes are released when alliums are cut or crushed which convert the sulfides to allicin, a phytonutrient. Leeks also contain copper, folate, iron, pyridoxine, zinc and vitamins A, C and K. Leeks are terrific in soups and a good substitute for onions in any recipe if you want a similar flavor but a less pungent punch.
TANGELOS (& CLEMENTINES)
Winter is the season to sample the various citrus fruits that are bountiful in produce departments now. I’ve already highlighted tangerines in November and grapefruit and oranges in December. A few citrus hybrids have been developed over the years. Clementines are a cross between tangerines and oranges and tangelos are a cross between tangerines and grapefruit. As such, both offer nutrition benefits from two different citrus fruits. Which means they have lots of fiber, vitamin C and the trifecta for eye health: vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin. Tangelos and clementines are sweet and juicy with peels that are easy to remove, making them perfect healthy snacks for kids. They have a long shelf life, too, so don’t shy away from buying them in large bags or small crates.
Start 2018 off right by sampling cabbage recipes and snacking on tangelos while your soup with fresh leeks simmers on the stove.
Vitamin A: Antioxidant promotes immunity function and eye, skin & red blood cell health (fat-soluble)
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin): Aids in metabolism of carbohydrates
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Necessary for converting food to energy
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Necessary for generating energy for cells
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Metabolic necessity
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Necessary for blood health and to feel energized
Vitamin B-9 (Folate): Necessary for the creation of new blood cells & fetal development
Vitamin C: Antioxidant that boosts immunity
Vitamin K: Important in protein absorption for healthy blood and bones (fat-soluble)
Calcium: Electrolyte necessary for strong teeth and bones
Copper: Antioxidant promotes healthy blood and eye, brain, skin and bone tissue
Iron: Antioxidant necessary for blood health
Zinc: Antioxidant needed for healing and healthy skin
Fiber: Technically not a nutrient but essential for digestive health & an aid in weight control
Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients: Powerful antioxidants found in small amounts in most plant-based foods. Here are some examples of phytonutrients, sub-category (if applicable) and the specific area of the body they benefit:
- Allicin: Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, lowers blood pressure
- Anthocyannis: anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
- Carotene (Alpha & Beta): convert to vitamin A; anti-aging & eye health
- Indole-3-Carbinol: anti-estrogen, cancer fighting properties
- Isothiocyanates: combat carcinogens in the body
- Lutein: carotene for eye health
- Sulforaphane: anti-estrogen, cancer fighting properties
- Zeaxanthin: carotene for eye health
Sources: visualnews.com, wisebread.com, nutrition-and-you.com, Harvard.edu, webMD