It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits. And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.
Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.
Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet.
Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut. The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy.
A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.
A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture. However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.
The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases. Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.
Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds. However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.
Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio. Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!
Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain. Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.
Oranges are a great source of vitamin C. As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.
Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.
Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming. Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’. The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction. There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!
Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium. Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus.
So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?
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