Thankfully, the warm days of spring and summer are quickly approaching.
But until we can get our gardens planted and start crunching on some fresh green vegetables and nature’s sweet treats, we may have need for an energy boost the natural way.
Kristi Veltkamp, RD, a registered dietitian with Spectrum Health Medical Group, has some suggestions for how we can make the most of our wintertime stash of goodies to ramp up our energy levels.
Among them are these 9 items:
Native to the United States and Canada, cranberries have long been used all winter long.
But they pack more than just a sweet tang. Cranberries are rich in fiber and an excellent source of vitamin C, phytonutrients and antioxidants to fight off colds.
Studies have shown this fruit can fight cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help with peptic ulcers and periodontal disease. Enjoy cranberries raw, dried or in sauces and jellies.
Chocolate is known for its high content of flavanols, which is a naturally occurring compound found in many plant foods including fruits, vegetables, wine and tea.
These particular flavanols have a positive effect on the circulatory system, which transports blood through the body.
They help to maintain flexibility of your arteries, which is a key factor in heart health. They also act as antioxidants to fight off damaging free radicals.
Enjoy dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate for more flavanols and antioxidants, and less sugar.
Who doesn’t like using the nutcracker to shell some fresh walnuts by the fireside during the cold days of winter?
These power snacks have the highest level of heart healthy omega-3s compared to any other nut. This is not to mention that they are also a good source of B vitamins, minerals and the cancer fighter of vitamin E.
They even have a powerful antioxidant called melatonin that helps promote restful sleep. Who could turn that down?
Enjoy these nuts toasted or raw in muffins, pancakes or quick breads, and on a salad or in your cereal.
Who says pumpkin is only for the holidays?
Did you know pumpkins are a great source of fiber, potassium, selenium, vitamin A and lutein? The seeds have an extra jolt of nutrition as well, loaded with omega-3s and phytosterols that can help reduce cholesterol.
Pumpkins can help decrease risk for cancer, especially prostate cancer, and improve diabetes control. Enjoy this winter squash warm with cinnamon and nutmeg on top, in a soup, or roast the seeds with salt sprinkled on top.
The sweet potato, which isn’t really a potato at all, has been around for thousands of years.
It may be the oldest vegetable known to humans.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, B6, manganese, potassium and fiber. This vegetable can help improve type 2 diabetes, enhance memory and fight cancer, specifically breast cancer, colorectal cancer, gallbladder and kidney cancer.
Enjoy these orange goodies baked, roasted, or in your favorite sweet potato pie recipe.
As members of the rose family, apples have more than 7,500 varieties around the world.
But they all pack a punch of nutrition throughout every part of the fruit. It is a rich source of vitamin C, soluble and insoluble fiber, and has plenty of antioxidants. Most of these nutrients are found in the skin.
They have been used to help with stomachaches and to relieve constipation. Studies also show this fruit can prevent heart disease, protect from cancer, help you lose weight and bolster brain health.
An apple a day really might keep the doctor away. Enjoy these fruits raw, as applesauce or baked.
There’s something about a cold winter day and a warm beverage. Why not try some teas?
All true teas come from the bush Camellia sinensis, whether black, green, white, or oolong. The difference is only in how they are processed and the many flavors that can be added to this base.
Tea is a good source of flavonoids, an important antioxidant to help fight disease. They also include caffeine to help give you an energy burst, just when you need it to get through the dreary parts of winter and early spring.
Winter is the best time to have fresh oranges as they are at their peak harvest.
They can offer you more than just an immune boost of vitamin C. Oranges also have potassium, folate and a rich source of flavanones to fight disease.
They have also been used for colds, constipation, toothaches, cataracts and applied topically for acne. Due to their high vitamin C content, oranges can help the body absorb iron more effectively for those struggling with low iron or anemia.
Enjoy this fruit fresh in a parfait or salad, as a marinade, or the classic morning juice.
This power fruit is picking up popularity in the health community, and with good reason.
Rich in vitamin C and numerous antioxidants, pomegranates are one of the oldest known fruits and are also in season during the winter months.
They have been used to preserve foods and as an antiseptic and disinfectant. Studies have found this fruit can also help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure and bone loss.
Serving can be tricky, but once you get the seeds out, this fruit can be enjoyed on top of salads, to make juice or used in sauces and jellies.