Spicing Up Your Diet with Winter Vegetables

One of the biggest challenges for newcomers to the Paleo diet is coming up with exciting and varied recipes. The Paleo diet advocates eating foods that are fresh and in season and staying away from grains, artificial flavourings and processed foods. For someone who is used to a modern Western diet, making this adjustment can be difficult. The good news is that once you learn which foods are in season and when, you can enjoy a healthy and varied diet.

Winter is a particularly good time to follow the Paleo diet. There is a huge selection of winter vegetables that are tasty, healthy and suitable for any occasion. Popular winter vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, turnips and squash. Many other vegetables, such as celery and horseradish, can be harvested in several different seasons, and others, such as onions, store well and can be enjoyed all year round.

The Benefits of Eating Seasonally

There are many reasons to eat locally grown, in-season foods. Firstly, shopping at farmers’ markets is usually cheaper than buying food from the supermarket, and the food is fresher too. Fresh winter vegetables are crunchy and flavourful and contain more nutrients than supermarket foods. Out-of-season foods are grown in foreign countries and transported long distances to reach our shelves. To ensure that the food survives the trip while still looking fresh, it is common for the produce to be irradiated (to kill germs) and have wax or other preservatives added to it. The food is then refrigerated while it is being transported.

While these treatments keep the food looking fresh, the taste suffers and the nutritional quality of the food deteriorates too. It does not take long for the antioxidants and vitamins in fresh fruits and vegetables to start to break down. Considering that even more nutrient breakdown occurs when the vegetables are cooked, it makes sense to try to eat fresh foods as often as possible.

In an ideal world everyone would grow their own vegetables, pick them and eat them immediately. Since that is not possible, the next best option is to buy locally grown produce from a farmers’ market. The less distance the food has to travel, and the shorter the time between the vegetable being harvested and making it on to the shelves, the better it will be.

Which Vegetables Are Best to Eat?

The best vegetables to eat are ones that are brightly coloured. Green, leafy vegetables or coloured salad vegetables are high in fibre, have a low glycemic index and are rich in nutrients. Potatoes (and sweet potatoes) are best avoided by Paleo diet followers. While it’s true that the skins of potatoes contain a lot of fibre, they are also dense sources of carbohydrates. If you are an active person who needs the extra calories to sustain your lifestyle, then there is nothing inherently wrong with sweet potatoes. However, someone who wants to lose weight would do better filling up on other less calorie-dense foods.