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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Wisconsin Winter Produce Staples

Jan 01, 2022 12:00AM ● By Grace E. Miazga
As the holiday hustle and bustle ends, and the days of winter come into full-swing, it isn’t uncommon to start hunkering down into hibernation mode and reaching for more comfort foods and less produce. A recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 14 percent of U.S. adults consume the recommended five servings of produce per day, and this number drops even more during wintertime. The weather highly impacts our lifestyle and food choices, so it’s important to modify what we eat to complement the ever-changing seasons. Mother Nature knows best, and provides a bounty of seasonal produce to ramp up nutrients in response to the nutritional needs that are unique to the harsher winter months. Below is a list of Wisconsin winter produce that is chock-full of all the nutrients we need to get us through the colder weather.

Broccoli rabe (rapini) is a source of many nutrients but is especially rich in B vitamins. Aside from biotin (B7) and cobalamin (B12), this green cruciferous winter vegetable is saturated with folate (B9), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), thiamin (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and pyridoxine (B6). B vitamins are especially crucial during the winter months because they play an essential role in energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.  

Mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D. Mushrooms are rich in a provitamin component called ergosterol. Under ultraviolet light exposure, ergosterol transforms into vitamin D. Depending on length of sun exposure, some wild mushrooms, like morels, can contain up to 1200 IU of vitamin D per 3.5 oz. serving, which is two times the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for adults, according to Harvard Medical School. Vitamin D is vital in converting the essential amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, a key hormone that influences mood, sleep, and even digestion.

Horseradish is rich in enzymes that uniquely enhance digestive health to help balance out bowel movement irregularity and constipation, another common symptom experienced during the colder months. Considered a cholagogue—a medicinal agent that aids in liver function—this pungent root vegetable helps stimulate the gallbladder to secrete bile, a key aspect in the digestive process and absorption of dietary fats. Horseradish also acts as a diuretic and promotes urination, which helps the body expel toxins and keeps the liver clean.

Leeks boast a hefty amount of iron, a mineral that helps regulate internal core temperature which keeps the body warm during winter. Iron produces hemoglobin, a protein that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps produce energy. Cold hands and feet may not be from the freezing outdoor temperatures, but rather a sign of insufficient iron levels. Unfortunately, the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide is iron deficiency, with approximately 35 percent of the U.S. population not meeting the RDA according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Amping up on iron-rich foods gives the body the energy it needs to stay warm during the colder months.

Alfalfa sprouts are a proven high-antioxidant food, which is important in protecting our cells from free radicals and preventing several diseases and illnesses. By increasing the production of white blood cells, alfalfa sprouts can protect the body from infections and inflammation. One serving of alfalfa sprouts provides almost 15 percent of the daily required intake of vitamin C, making it an excellent immune booster.
 
Like every season, winter has its beauty and its challenges, but one of the best ways to get acclimated and aligned to the seasonal changes of winter is by reaping the nutritional benefits of locally grown produce. Purchasing local produce fills the kitchen cupboards with maximum nourishment, as well as supports local farmers and our community. Winter farmers markets are officially up and running, and in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area, there are several to visit to stock up on your winter produce.

Grace E. Miazga

 Grace E. Miazga, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, is owner of Hidden Gem Nutrition in Hubertus. For more information, visit HiddenGemNutrition.com or call 262-719-8928.