The festive season is upon us which brings its own traditional food choices during this period. However, as always, it’s good to eat foods that are naturally in season as they are at their best.
And some of these can certainly feature as part of your Christmas menu.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for December.
For some reason turnips don’t seem to get the same accolades as parsnips. Perhaps it’s because turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder in the nineteenth century. And whilst turnips are generally available all year, they are at their tastiest right now.
From a nutritional perspective, they provide a range of nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C, hormone balancing vitamin B6 and bone-loving calcium and manganese. Importantly, and just like all members of the brassica family, turnips contain indoles which ramp up liver detoxification enzymes, perfect for this time of year.
Turnips can be baked just like potatoes, with some thyme, and are delicious sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.
Whilst the nutritional benefits of apples are never in question, they can be quite confusing to choose from as there are over 7,000 varieties! But which ever ones you choose they provide some great health benefits.
Apples are prized for their pectin content. Pectin is a gentle form of soluble fibre hence apples have traditionally been used to treat constipation. Importantly, pectin helps remove ‘bad‘ cholesterol from the blood stream, making apples a heart-healthy choice.
Apples are also higher in fructose than glucose which means they’re lower on the glycaemic index and help to balance blood sugar levels. This is also important when keeping a watchful eye on the waistband. Apples are also a rich source of vitamin C to give the immune system a much-needed boost at this time of year.
Interestingly, they are not from Jerusalem and are also not part of the artichoke family! However, I frequently write about Jerusalem artichokes because they are some of the best vegetables to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Just like a garden, the gut microbiome needs to be cultivated and fed and this vegetable is great for the purpose. They are rich in inulin which is known as prebiotic bacteria. As with all vegetables they’re also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious side dish simply roasted with or without the skin.
Interestingly kale is not only in season at this time of year, but also definitely much tastier too! Kale is a member of the Brassica family and provides amazing health benefits, especially in protecting the liver, but also providing compounds to protect future health too.
From an antioxidant perspective, kale delivers on vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, hence its role in protecting current and future health. It is also rich in key minerals such as manganese, iron, and calcium, all generally lacking in the typical UK diet and essential for the heart and bones, amongst other things.
Kale can be slightly bitter so is best sauteed with a little garlic and soy sauce to make a delicious side.
Potatoes often get bad press, especially from people following the ketogenic diet as they are obviously high in carbs. However, boiled potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than jackets, therefore their starch content is less.
Importantly, potatoes provide a great and inexpensive energy source so are great for feeding and satisfying families. They also contain plenty of vitamin C and if eaten with the skin, provide a great source of fibre.
If you’re looking for a festive treat, then dauphinoise potatoes, made with cream, garlic and cheese is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever eat them!
So, enjoy all that nature has to offer this season and grab some great health benefits too!
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