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Healthy Winter Foods

Experts give advice on buying and preparing winter foods that are good for your health.

Winter Squash continued...

Butternut squash is just as vitamin-laden.

"A cup of baked butternut cubes has 82 calories, 5.7 grams of fiber, a whopping 179% of your daily value of vitamin A, 22% folic acid, and 52% vitamin C," says Magee.

The trick, however, is to not spoil the nutritional value of power-packed foods like winter squash.

"It's never good to douse these veggies with cubes of butter," Magee tells WebMD. "These are wonderful foods bursting with nutritional value, and we smother them with high-calorie condiments like butter and syrup."

Instead of smothering, try just a teaspoon of low-fat margarine in the cavity of the squash while you bake it, or just a sprinkle of brown sugar -- without overwhelming its natural flavor and taste. Even healthier, try a little applesauce instead of syrup.

Citrus Fruits

"Winter is the season for fresh citrus, and oranges are loaded with vitamin C," says Susan Mitchell, a registered dietitian in Winter Park, Fla., and author of Fat is Not Your Fate.

One orange alone offers up more than 100% of your daily requirement of power-packed vitamin C, as well as other disease fighting nutrients.

"Plus, oranges have folate, a B vitamin that may help to keep your heart healthy, as well as fiber and potassium," says Mitchell.

Cabbage and Kale

"Red cabbage is nice because it's so low in calories -- about 20 per cup," says Mitchell. "It's a source of vitamin A and contains the natural phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin that may help your eyes age gracefully."

A cousin of cabbage is kale, another winter food rich in nutritional value.

"Kale is a power source of a multitude of healthy nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, and a number of phytochemicals," says Mitchell.

Served in salads, soups, and stews, cabbage and kale add flavor and zest to hearty winter recipes.

The Frozen Food Aisle

If it's not in season, fear not: While frozen or canned isn't exactly the real thing, it's not necessarily bad, either.

"I am a proponent of frozen and even canned foods," Moores tells WebMD.

If it's picked at optimal ripeness, processed quickly, and stored well, frozen or canned foods that aren't in season can be tasty in the winter.

"By and large I do think frozen and canned foods are a nice way to still get the taste of fresh foods without sacrificing nutrition," says Moores.

Summer Foods in Winter

These days, you can get almost any food during any time of the year, for the right price.

"I don't know if there's anything I've seen that you can only get in season from a grocery store," says Moores. "Of course, it'll probably be more expensive."

While you can find a plethora of foods year round if you're willing to pay the price, you might be sacrificing taste and nutrition.

"If you have strawberries in November or December, they're coming from very far away," says Moores. "While transportation is remarkable, the strawberries are being picked prior to their ripeness, so you sacrifice taste and some nutritional value. Tomatoes are another example: If you eat a tomato out of season instead of in season, there's no comparison.

"From a nutrition and taste standpoint, you have an advantage when you're eating seasonal food," says Moores. "It tastes good, it's got great nutritional value, and you're getting it at a good price."

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Reviewed on February 20, 2007

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