‘Superfood’ is the name given to a food having strong nutritional qualities that you can only benefit from if you eat the food in its entirety. In the case of winter superfoods, it is their vitamin C, antioxidant and unsaturated fat contents known to help boost immunity and fight infection that places them in the superfood category.
Aim to include as many of the following superfoods in your diet each day to give your body the immune boost it needs to get you through the chilly months. And if all else fails, make yourself a steaming pot of vegetable soup with a little chilli and garlic to boost your immunity and stave off a runny nose.
The Top 17
1) Broccoli – exceptionally high in antioxidants
When it comes to vegetables is, the brighter the colour, the better they are for you. Broccoli, many a dietitian’s favourite vegetable, contains high levels of key antioxidants as well as a number of vitamins and minerals. Add to as many vegetable dishes and stir fries as you can. For some extra flavour, try steaming broccoli with a little soy and oyster sauce.
2) Carrots – huge boost of the antioxidant beta-carotene
Another brightly coloured vegetable choice, carrots are packed full of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which is why they sometimes bleed all over your hand. Just one carrot a day will keep the doctor away and is a great snack food choice teamed with peanut butter or low fat hommus. Remember that overcooking vegetables is a sure way to kill the vitamins so if you cook your carrots, aim to lightly steam them or alternatively make it a daily ritual to snack on a carrot on the way home from work.
3) Oats – low GI goodness
The less processed the cereal grain, the better it tends to be for your body and spirit. A single serve of oats each day provides you with a substantial amount of soluble fibre; the type of fibre known to help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Oats also have one of the lowest GI’s of all grains. Look for the coarsest oats you can find, rather than the ‘quick cook’ varieties and team with plenty of low fat milk and a little cinnamon rather than adding sugar.
4) Lean red meat – the hit of iron and zinc you need
The rich-nutrient density of a piece of lean meat means that it ticks a number of boxes from a performance/nutrition perspective. Many people eliminate red meat from their diet instead thinking that fish and chicken are healthier options, but as long as you choose lean meat, you are getting a more nutrient-dense choice than both chicken and fish. Lean red meat is a rich source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12, which are all crucial for optimal energy production, particularly for active people. Aim for 100-200g of lean red meat 3-4 times to ensure you are getting all the key nutrients you need for muscle function and recovery.
5) Red capsicum – packed full of vitamin C
Red capsicum is a rich source of carotenoids, the group of antioxidants known to play a powerful role in helping to down regulate a number of inflammatory pathways in the body. Individuals who have had a higher intake of carotenoids during their lives have been associated with lower risks of mortality from common disease states including heart disease, cancer and stroke in large population based health studies. Red capsicums are another great vegie snack teamed with hummus or cucumber dip.
6) Kiwi fruit – entire daily requirement of vitamin C
Did you know that just a single kiwi fruit provides your total daily requirement of vitamin C? This furry fruit is packed full of nutrition and a great choice of lunchbox filler for kids – Cut the top off the kiwi, and team it with a spoon for a sweet tasty fruit snack. One kiwi also provides almost 3 grams of fibre, a significant amount of beta-carotene and is low in kilojoules. Try blending with berries for a nutrient-rich fruit drink, adding to salads, and if you are brave enough, try eating the kiwi with the skin on, which would give you an extra gram of fibre.
7) Lemons and limes – a little zest
Citrus fruits including lemons and limes originated in the tropical and subtropical areas in South East Asia and are a rich source of vitamin C. The role of citrus fruit and weight control has developed in interest due to their high content of citric acid which is thought to potentially bind fat stores. While there is no evidence to show this is the case, adding highly acidic foods including lemon juice to cooking does lower the glycaemic index of the food. Low in energy but packed full of nutrition, both lemons and limes can be used as tasty additions to recipes with a vitamin C boost to boot. Perfect for marinades, sauces or squeezed into some hot water for a great cleansing start to the day.
8) Green tea – powerful antioxidant
If there was one type of tea you should add to your tea repertoire it is green tea. Not only is it exceptionally high in antioxidants, there is also evidence to show that it can help with fat burning. Aim for a cup after each meal. Caffeine-free varieties are also available. If the flavour of plain green tea isn’t for you, the flavoured varieties are fine and remember, the longer you leave the tea bag in, the better it is for you.
9) Dark chocolate – it has to be dark!
Chocolate made with a high proportion of cocoa contains high amounts of antioxidant molecules, the flavonoids and the phenolic phytochemical. It is actually rated higher than both tea and red wine in terms of antioxidant capacity but remember, naturally controlling your portion size is key. Aim for just 20g for roughly 100 calories and 5-7g of fat.
10) Eggs – super nutritious
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods we can eat. They offer a large number of key nutrients including zinc, high biological value protein and iron as well as more than 20 other vital vitamins and minerals. Enjoy 1-2 eggs a day as a great breakfast choice teamed with wholegrain bread or as a protein boost with wraps or sandwiches through the day. Omelettes or frittatas are also a great alternative to toasted sandwiches or pizza for a quick meal on the go.
11) Brussels sprouts
Hopefully by now you’ve realized soggy little cabbage balls are a thing of the past and brussels sprouts can be awesomely delicious. While you can find them year round, brussels sprouts peak season is fall to mid-winter which means they’re cheapest right now. Brussels are packed with fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.
The jewel of winter! Pomegranates get a bit of a bad rap for their complicated insides but suck it up, buttercup, this fruit is worth the hassle of de-seeding. Either do it in a bowl of water or cut into quarters and kind of separate gently with your hands. Just be ok with a messy murder scene-esque on your counter afterwards, it’s all part of the pomegranate charm.
Sidekick: Green tea – also high in pain-relieving antioxidants and is delicious with a splash of pomegranate juice.
Usually if you’re not a licorice fan, you’re not too keen on fennel either. Weirdly, I don’t like licorice but adore fennel, particularly when it’s roasted. Guess I’m one of the weirdos. Truth be told though, fennel is a bit milder than licorice and a great, bright addition to salads and such so don’t dismiss it just because you’re not a licorice lover. Like many others on this list, fennel is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, folate and boasts a healthy bit of potassium too.
14) Kale – great source of folate
Kale is so 2012. But, … It’s really an amazing leafy green. Indeed, all dark leafy greens (swiss chard, collard greens, etc.) can really be included here if you’re offended by the insinuation of eating kale in 2017. Dark greens almost always mean lots of antioxidants and kale is no exception. Besides that, it’s a great source of folate and iron.
Ammo: Protein, fibre, and iron.
Powers: Promoting serotonin production, preventing migraines, and lowering blood pressure.
Sidekick: Pumpkin seeds – they’re another excellent source of vegetarian protein. Sprinkle onto quinoa salad.
16) Blueberries – the heart protectors
Ammo: Manganese, vitamins C and K, and anthocyanin.
Powers: Protecting the heart, benefiting eyesight and memory, fighting cancer and diabetes.
Sidekick: Spinach – it’s rich in lutein, which also aids vision. Toss spinach and blueberries together in a salad.
This decadent fruit has a lot to offer: magnesium, potassium and monounsaturated fats. Avocado may help reduce “bad” cholesterol, plus its heart-healthy fats allow you to absorb more nutrients from other foods. Beside guacamole, modern go-to methods are swapping it for butter on toast or slicing some in a salad, but do try it on sandwiches, in baked goods and even on your face as a revitalizing mask.