Root vegetables are plentiful on the winter market stalls. So it’s possible to treat yourself by cooking them in a thousand and one ways, and to try out ancient varieties to get away from the all-too-familiar, for instance exploring parsnips or Jerusalem artichokes, with their delicious artichoke flavour.
Eating seasonal, local vegetables is a responsible action, but it is also excellent for your health. Easy to digest and rich in vitamins and minerals, winter vegetables will help you to stay in top form throughout the season. What’s more, the lack of sunlight and the tendency to eat comfort foods can lead to dietary deficiencies, in turn inducing energy lows and having a negative influence on the prevalence of diseases. Changing your diet to address such deficiencies and taking account of what nature offers us can help us to find a good dietary balance. The winter cold also calls for more significant expenditures of energy, which is why our body demands more nutrients in winter. Nature being well-disposed, seasonal fruits and vegetables are packed with minerals and vitamins and also have many other benefits for our health.
They are generally rich in potassium, a mineral essential to the balance of fluids in our body and to maintaining healthy arterial pressure. It also plays a role in metabolising carbohydrates and in building muscle. Vitamin C, which you find in citrus fruits, helps in avoiding colds and attacks of fatigue. The fibres found in legumes, pumpkins and oat bran help you to feel full, stabilise sugar levels in the body, and contribute to healthy digestion. Thanks to their antioxidant levels, these vegetables give you energy, protect against oxidant stress, rebalance your intestinal flora – and all that without packing too many calories!
Winter is also the time to rediscover the products which tend to make you feel full, such as wholegrain foods (bread, pastries, flour) and dried vegetables (lentils, split peas, haricot beans). These latter, simmered or in a soup, are essential to fight infections and fatigue. Dark chocolate and spices such as cinnamon, curry or ginger supply you with the necessary reserves of magnesium, while oily fish deliver a good dose of vitamin D, which is lacking in winter. Honey, used as a sugar substitute, offers many benefits in being antibacterial and antioxidant.
In short, eating a balanced diet contributes to a happy equilibrium physically and emotionally, and fills you with energy.
My nutritional advice
Rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium and antioxidants, citrus fruits are friends both to your shape and your health in winter. The fibres in citrus fruits are valuable in regulating transit and in combating constipation, and they also give you a feeling of being full. Vitamin C is vital in boosting immunity, and helps in the defence against microbial attack. It also aids digestion, combats fatigue and restricts cellulite.
The Jerusalem artichoke
The Jerusalem artichoke is a root vegetable that is worth getting to know better. This vegetable has a flavour similar to artichoke, it cooks like a potato, and is ideally eaten young. Consumed raw or cooked, it is packed with carbohydrates contributing to good intestinal health and preventing certain cancers and osteoporosis. The Jerusalem artichoke is rich in vitamin B, in fibre, in iron, in potassium and phosphorus. Its vitamin B content helps to protect the nervous system and to prevent neuro-degenerative diseases, while its calcium content helps to strengthen bones and teeth.
My wild pickings
Garlic mustard root, our local wasabi
This plant, with its flavour of garlic, belongs to the brassica family. In the spring, we munch on its stems, its leaves and its flowers, in July and August we enjoy its fruits and seeds, and at the end of autumn and into the early winter we have its roots. The leaves are harvested when they form tufts in the spring, ideally before the plant flowers, to restrict the bitter taste. Piquant like black radish or horseradish, the roots are picked in the plant’s first year, before its stem has become too big and it becomes dry and fibrous. They are eaten raw or seasoned, grated or in the form of pickles to pep up a pan of mushrooms, for example. You can tone down the piquancy by drawing out the moisture using salt.
Recipe of the month