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Celebrate your plate: 8 winter foods to boost your health

Want to know just how good-for-you your favorite winter foods are? Read on to discover 8 fruits and veggies that can boost your health this season.

Sure, your once bountiful summer garden has become bare and the cold and the winter soil seems less inhabitable by the day, but there are still a number of nutrient dense foods we can celebrate this time of year. From local goodies to nationally seasonal selections and pantry staples, there are many foods worth praising this time of year! Here are eight unassuming winter super foods that give reason to the phrase "celebrate your plate" this holiday season!

Pears may take backstage to the mighty apple but they are surely worth taking a bite. Juicy and sweet, the unique texture of pears makes them a noteworthy addition to any dish. This fruit is rich in fiber, vitamin C, potassium and more, but be sure to avoid peeling its skin to maximize the nutrient density of each bite. Add pears to your daily smoothie; roast them to provide either a sweet or savory taste; slice them for sandwiches, salads, pizzas or just enjoy as a snack.

Grapes from California are in season through January and these colorful berries are always a healthy choice. Research has shown that grapes of all colors (red, green and black) are a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols that help protect our cell function. Grapes are great for snacking, and when frozen, they are an extra special treat (think mini-sorbet bites). Grapes also work well in savory dishes — use them in place of grape tomatoes in almost any dish, or even roast or sauté them into a sauce. Add them to chicken salad, or a grain salad like this Quinoa and Grape Curry Salad. You can also channel the days of summer with your indoor grill pan and make these Mediterranean Chicken and Grape Skewer for an extra delicious dinner.

Grapefruits, though they often play second fiddle to the mighty orange, they deserve just as much reverence. Half a grapefruit contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C, which speaks to its immune-boosting capabilities. The fruit, pith and peel also contain limonins, which have cancer-fighting properties. Instead of just eating the segments, removed from the membrane, challenge yourself to peel and segment a grapefruit like you would an orange. Eaten this way, you will maximize your fiber and nutrient. Add grapefruit to smoothies, salads, or yogurt. Pair roasted tomatoes with grapefruit segments and fresh herbs to create a sweet and savory toping for chicken or fish.

Lentils are easy to cook and overflowing with nutrients, such as fiber, folate, magnesium and B Vitamins to name a few. Lentils have twice the protein per serving of traditional beans like black and kidney. A hearty, satisfying plant-based protein, lentils can be incorporated into salads, soups, stews and more. Cook up a batch of lentils over the weekend and easily incorporate them into meals throughout the week. Eager to give lentils a try? Check out this lentil bolognese recipe that is so earthy and rich you won't miss the meat. Many cultures consider lentils to be good luck and associate them with good health and prosperity making them a great food to celebrate on your New Years!

Sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes may not be appealing to the eye, but don't let that fool you. Sunchokes are sweet and crunchy when consumed raw; once cooked, they take on a creamy, earthy and almost nutty flavor. Rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, this tuber supports a healthy GI tract and prolonged satiety. A good source of potassium and iron, sunchokes also contain smaller amounts of antioxidants like Vitamin C and A. Try munching on them like an apple, or roasting them to add to soups or stews.

Radicchio is a member of the chicory vegetable family. Known for its red wine-like color and bitter flavor, this cabbage-like lettuce is rich in antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein, which prevent macular degeneration and promote eye health. Radicchio is also an excellent source of Vitamin K, which plays a role in bone health and protects brain cells. This vegetable can be enjoyed raw, roasted or sautéed, served alone or as part of a dish. To diminish the bitterness of its leaves, add natural sweeteners like honey, maple or fresh or dried fruits. Try roasted radicchio with an apple slaw, dried cherries or a touch of honey or aged balsamic.

Celeriac, also known as root-celery is a relative to the well-known celery plant that has been hybridized to produce a more robust bulb. While it may be brown and unsightly at first glance, removing the peel reveals a creamy, white flesh that is very potato-like. Celeriac is extremely low in calories and rich in nutrients like fiber, cancer-fighting antioxidants and minerals including phosphorus, iron, calcium and more. Boiled or roasted, the flesh of this veggie takes on a creamy texture. Celeriac can be used in place of potatoes or other root vegetables and works particularly well in soups, stews and mashed.

Pistachios are a great tasting, nutrient dense pantry staple to have on hand all winter long. Wonderful pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat snack nuts available plus each one-ounce serving contains six grams of protein (one egg's worth!) and heart-healthy fats to keep you feeling satiated. Shelling pistachios aids in mindfulness eating, plus that pile of shells leftover allows for adding snacking satisfaction. Try this indulgent pairing: In-shell pistachios with orange (or grapefruit) slices, dark chocolate pieces and sparkling wine or water.


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