Winter feels like it is well and truly here, and seasonal fruit and vegetables play a vital role in boosting immunity and fighting off unwanted ills and chills.
Niki Bezzant, food and nutrition writer and editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide, says eating seasonally is not only economical, but ensures we are getting the right vitamins and minerals in our diet.
“Getting lots of fruit and vegetables in winter is especially important to keep up our intake of vitamins and minerals to boost immunity. Fruit and vegetables also contain fibre which is beneficial for gut health, a very important part of our immune system,” she says.
With soup season in full swing, winter produce such as kūmara, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and cauliflower lend themselves perfectly to creating hot, creamy and nutritious soups and are packed with dietary fibre and vitamins. Kūmara and broccoli in particular are bursting with Vitamin C, both containing more than the recommended daily dose, as well as Vitamins A and B6.
5+ A Day Charitable Trust General Manager Paula Dudley says familiarising yourself with what’s in season is a great way to save money. In-season produce is fresher, better value and more sustainable because it’s locally grown and minimally transported.
“Eating at least five servings a day of fruit and vegetables is great, but eating more and a good variety, is even better,” says Dudley.
Bezzant says another cost-effective idea is batch cooking winter vegetables, it is a simple way to plan meals and a great time saver for our busy lives.
“Roast up a big dish of kūmara, pumpkin, parsnip, potato and carrots at the start of the week and use them in salads for lunches, frittatas for breakfast or casseroles for dinner.
“I also love dark leafy greens like silverbeet, spinach and kale in winter, they add goodness to almost anything, particularly soups and casseroles. Citrus fruit is abundant now and perfect as a snack or dessert,” says Bezzant.
Dudley says increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables can make a big difference to the way you feel in just a couple of weeks, helping to lift your psychological wellbeing, lowering stress levels, and boosting vitality and motivation – all of which become even more important during the cold winter months.
“Consuming fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of disease, with recent studies suggesting eating plenty of fresh produce may lead to longer lives.
“Fruit and vegetables contain lots of nutrients and antioxidants, and have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and boost the health of blood vessels and the immune system,” says Dudley.
In season fruit and vegetables are also healthy for the bank balance. Currently, a family of four can buy at least two days’ worth of their five plus servings of fruit and vegetables for under $20.
For example, that could include produce such as carrots at $2.49/kg, which is approximately eight carrots; two kilograms of potatoes for $5.58 ($2.79/kg), between 10-12 medium-sized potatoes; one large broccoli head at $1.79; one kilogram of mandarins at $3.99/kg, equating to around 10 pieces of fruit; a big bag of fresh spinach at $3.29; and eight kiwifruit, equivalent to one kilogram, for $2.29/kg.
That’s a total of $19.43 to feed four people their five plus servings for at least two days, or $2.43 per person a day.
“Variety is the spice of life, so be sure to mix up different varieties of the same fresh item, like kiwifruit or kūmara. You might just discover a new family favourite,” says Dudley.