It’s no secret that we are what we eat! Everything we put into our bodies will have an effect, and hopefully a benefit, as well as playing a role in our overall wellbeing.
Vegetables provide many health benefits – some more than others – and are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Including as many as you can in the daily diet is a great way to get a wide range of nutrients to support your overall wellbeing.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourites that are in-season right now!
Broccoli is often referred to as a superfood. Quite simply, it’s right up there when it comes to providing immune-boosting nutrients (essential at this time of year), antioxidants and other compounds which support detoxification and hormone balance.
From an immune health perspective, broccoli is high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, together with the mineral selenium. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds which help protect against disease. Importantly, some of these compounds have a positive effect on the heart, brain, and skin. Plus, broccoli is loaded with fibre which keeps digestion moving along nicely, whilst protecting overall health.
Broccoli is really versatile in recipes, simply served steamed with a drizzle of pesto or in a mid-week broccoli and salmon bake with some added basil leaves, for great flavour.
Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver detoxifier so is perfect for the upcoming party season! Beetroot contains a compound called betalain, which triggers the body’s key antioxidant and detoxifying enzyme.
From a nutrient perspective, beetroot is rich in energising folate, essential for women during pregnancy, plus the minerals calcium, iron, and manganese – all often deficient in the typical western diet. And if you’re struggling with joint pain or need a boost to your high intensity workouts, then beetroot is certainly your friend.
Beetroot is great in salads with goat’s cheese or couscous and mint, in soups, roasted as a vegetable side or made into chocolate brownies for an amazing, sweet treat!
It’s no coincidence that root vegetables are in season now. The body needs warming, and energy-dense foods such as turnips fit the bill perfectly. Turnips were one of the main sources of sustenance way back, before the arrival of potatoes. They are perfect at this time of year and are high in immune-boosting vitamin C.
Turnips have a slightly sweet flavour so work really well with lamb and celeriac in a hotpot. However, for a dinner party treat with a twist, how about serving a turnip gratin which includes potatoes, double cream, and garlic – a twist on traditional Potato Dauphinoise.
Sweet potatoes are in fact not part of the same family as traditional white potatoes and have a different, and better overall nutrient profile. This is mainly because sweet potatoes are high in immune-boosting beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed in the body, but also because they help to better balance blood sugar versus traditional potatoes.
Interestingly, sweet potatoes aren’t always orange in colour; purple sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant-rich anthocyanins. However, both are great for overall health and, importantly, make a great substitute for potato fries! Sweet potato wedges, simply roasted in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese will provide the perfect guilt-free vegetable side!
No list of superfood vegetables would be complete without the mention of Brussels sprouts! Maligned by many, Brussels should certainly feature regularly on the dinner plate, not just on Christmas Day.
Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C but also vitamin K which is essential for heart and bone health. They also protect cells from free radical damage, making them super-protective against some of our nasty degenerative diseases. They are rich in fibre with just half a cup providing at least two grams of the recommended 30 grams of fibre needed daily. Brussels have also been found to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, another protective benefit.
Their bitter taste can often be a negative factor for people, hence they’re great mixed with bacon. Importantly, Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be overcooked as it’s the ‘mushy’ texture that many people dislike. Lightly steam them and then stir fry with bacon and onions or for a traditional Christmas special, add them to fried chestnuts, apples, and celery.
So, try adding these five delicious vegetables into your daily diet and take the veg pledge!
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