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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Winter Power Foods -- Recipes!

Inevitably, most of us will get a cold or flu this season... It's just that time of year. But we can reduce our chances, or at least lessen the duration of illness, by keeping the immune system on top of the game. Supplements are one way to go, but we should also take advantage of the plethora of healing foods right under our noses.

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The winter months generate their own set of "power foods" to keep us healthy all season long. Winter power foods should offer either of the following: good fats to fight disease and keep our bodies insulated from the cold, or vitamins and phyto-nutrients to boost immunity throughout the flu season. For best results, they should be eaten as staples throughout the long, cold, winter months.

Here's a quick look at five of the healthiest foods to keep you powered up all winter long:

Grapefruit

Winter's crop of US grapefruit grows in Texas and Florida. If you're local, you're lucky. In The Prescription for Dietary Wellness, nutritionist Phyllis Balch claims that grapefruits feed the good bacteria in the intestines, which helps keep digestive immunity normalized. Like all citrus fruits, they are high in vitamin C to ward off the common cold.

From a nutrition standpoint, grapefruits with deep red or pink flesh are the best, as these have the highest amounts of carotenes and other substances called phyto-nutrients known to fight disease.

RECIPE:
Grapefruit Ambrosia
Ambrosia is the nectar of the Gods; and this one is pretty enough to serve even Aphrodite...

Cruciferous Vegetables

Each one of these power-packed vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients that are known to be highly nutritious. Cruciferous veggies are excellent sources of carotenes, chlorophyll and vitamin C. According to Michael Murray in his book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, "one cup of kale [or collards] supplies more than 70 percent of the RDI for vitamin C, with only 20 calories".

Cruciferous vegetables include arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip greens and watercress. Most of these veggies are thick and hearty and are grown all winter in the milder climatic regions.

RECIPE:
Steamed Kale with Sauteed Onions and Garlic
This quick and easy way to get kale into your diet will soon become an addiction...

Olive Oil

Is olive oil seasonal? You bet. California's crop is first, usually appearing in stores by late November or early December. European oils arrive on the shelves at the beginning of the year. Olive oil should be consumed all year round, but winter is the best time to savor its freshly crushed, robust flavors.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, a desirable form of fat that does not affect blood cholesterol levels, and in fact, may improve them. Eating olive oil in the raw is the best way to make use of these good fats. Try to incorporate olive oil into your diet everyday drizzled over veggies, in dressings, or lightly heated with sauteed vegetables, meats or vegetable proteins.

Cranberries

Cranberries are extremely high in antioxidants, the "good guys" that help fight disease and boost immune function. Like their cousin the blueberry, cranberries are of the top sources for antioxidants when measured against 100 kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains.

Since fresh cranberries are most abundant over the holidays, stock up on them while supplies last. Buy them fresh and store them in the freezer for 6-12 months. Dice them over salads, puree them into dressings, or cook them into chutneys or sauces. I throw them into my smoothies every morning with other nutritional berries. Use them throughout the winter months to help immune function and ward off colds and flu.

Walnuts and Flaxseeds

All nuts and seeds have good fats to give the body extra insulation and moisture throughout the cold, dry winter. But walnuts and flaxseeds are the two best choices to have on hand for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids -- essential fats that research has proven to fight disease and increase immunity. Omega-3s are the fats that are most deficient in the American Diet.

To get the most out of these oils, flaxseeds should be ground before eaten. Otherwise, they will just pass through the system undigested. Essential oils can go rancid quickly, so it's best to store nuts in the refrigerator. Blend flaxseeds and walnuts into smoothies or sprinkle them over salads. Flax can be used to replace some of the flour in muffins, pancakes and baked goods.

RECIPES:
Flaxy Pumpkin Muffins (vegan)
Sweet and creamy pumpkin puree is used in these healthy muffins to increase nutrition and decrease the amount of oil used for moistening...

Garlicky Apple-Walnut Dressing
This simple, easy dressing whips up in minutes and can be used over salads or meats, or for dips and satays...

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