15 Winter Vegetables That Are Seriously Good for You
You’ve basically lived at the farmer’s market this summer, but now there’s a chill in the air and you’re lamenting the end of veggie season. Don’t worry, you needn’t dine exclusively on mac and cheese and chicken pot pie all winter long—there's a whole host of delicious winter vegetables that promise to please your taste buds while doing good things for your waistline and your overall health.
What are winter vegetables?
Winter vegetables are ones that are planted and harvested when the temperatures begin to drop—namely because they prefer the chilly weather. Of the veggies on our list, some are more easy-going than others and, thus, can be found at various times of the year; however, the one thing they all have in common is that they just taste better in the wintertime.
A cruciferous vegetable belonging to the cabbage family, this leafy green can be found year-round, but thrives in cold weather. Kale is also one of the most nutrient-dense veggies on our list: It’s an excellent source of both fiber and calcium and boasts impressive amounts of vitamins K, A, B6 and C to boot. Eat it raw in a kale salad, or sauté it for a healthy side dish—either way, your body will thank you.
Winter is the ideal time to harvest this root vegetable since, much like carrots, parsnips grow sweeter as temperatures drop. Aside from their natural sweetness, parsnips also have a subtle earthy flavor that’s well-suited to the season’s hearty fare. They’re also an excellent source of soluble fiber, vitamins (C, B and E) and minerals (manganese, potassium and magnesium). In other words, you’d be wise to eat parsnips all winter long. Try ‘em blended into a soup, baked in a cake or simply roasted—this is one versatile (and tasty) vegetable.
3. Collard Greens
A staple of Southern cuisine, these bitter greens belong to the same family as kale and cabbage and have a similarly bitter quality. Not only can collard greens tolerate the cold, but they actually taste better once the weather gets frosty. (Hint: Long cooking times help, too.) It probably comes as no surprise that collard greens are nutritional heavy hitters. In fact, the bitter taste of collard greens is actually the result of a high calcium content, and they contain a significant amount of iron, vitamin C and vitamin K as well.
4. Brussels Sprouts
They look like cute baby cabbages and they belong to the same cruciferous family, too. Yep, we’re talking about brussels sprouts—a mild-tasting cold weather staple that works well as a stand-alone side, or when added to anything from warming winter pastas to creamy casseroles. Yep, brussels sprouts are a crowd-pleaser no matter how you prepare them, and they’re nutritional powerhouses, too. Eat ‘em up and you’ll get a generous serving of vitamins A, B, C and K, and plenty of healthy fiber, to boot.
5. Swiss Chard
Here, another winter green with a host of health benefits, including boatloads of vitamin K (i.e., a whole day’s worth in a single serving) as well as vitamins A and C. Best of all, swiss chard has very few calories—making it an easy choice for anyone hoping to avoid winter weight gain—and a mild, sweet flavor with only a hint of bitterness. Basically, this one’s a winner on all fronts (especially when baked into this swiss chard au gratin recipe).
You can, of course, munch on this popular root vegetable all year long, but carrots truly shine in the winter, when cold temperatures make them extra sweet. Reach for a raw carrot whenever you want a healthy snack and an impressive dose of vitamin A; we also highly recommend them as a nutrient-rich addition to hearty winter stews.
You might not think of broccoli as a winter vegetable since this cruciferous vegetable can be found on the menu at any time of year. That said, broccoli, like the other members of its family, does indeed favor frigid temperatures, so you’ll find that this nutrient-rich, flowering veg has superior flavor in the winter season. Plus, thanks to its versatility, there is no shortage of ways to use it, which is a very good thing considering that the vitamins and antioxidants found in broccoli boast a wide range of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer, fighting inflammation, and improving digestive health (to name a few).
The biting peppery flavor and pleasing crunch of raw radishes makes for a satisfying snack, while roasted radishes feature a mellow, earthy flavor that pairs well with many a winter meal. No matter how you prepare them, this vibrant root vegetable will provide you with plenty of potassium, a considerable amount of vitamins B and C, and anti-inflammatory antioxidants to boot.
Considering that rutabagas boast an impressive nutritional profile, they should really get more love. Much like other cruciferous root veggies on our list, rutabagas get sweet as temperatures drop and are at their very best all winter long. Rutabagas are also packed with minerals and vitamins—most notably, potassium, an important mineral for maintaining healthy blood pressure, and vitamin C, which supports immune function and overall health.
Mild, sweet and often overlooked—turnips and rutabagas have a lot in common and can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Turnips are particularly tasty when used as a substitute for potato or cauliflower in a cheesy gratin and they can be crisped up as a healthy alternative to french fries, too. As for their nutritional value, these gems from the cruciferous family are rich in vitamins C and K, as well as fiber, folate and cancer-fighting glucosamines. Not bad, right?
Leeks are essentially the soft-spoken cousin of the onion with the appearance of a giant scallion, and we can’t get enough of them—particularly in the winter when they’re at their peak. Best of all, leeks contain anti-inflammatory plant compounds that benefit the skin, eyes and immune system. Pro tip: Be sure to clean these guys well to get rid of the grit before you cook them up for a melty, mild-tasting and healthy treat.
Everyone likes cauliflower and it’s not hard to see why. This flowering cruciferous vegetable is just like broccoli, but it’s not green so it won’t scare away any picky eaters, and its flavor is milder and sweeter as well. Cover it in cheese, toss it into pasta, roast the whole head—there are numerous ways to serve cauliflower so that all can enjoy its subtle, nutty taste whilst profiting from the cancer-fighting phytonutrients, fiber and B-vitamins it contains.
13. Winter Squash
Butternut, delicata, acorn, kombucha—there are many types of squash and you can find them everywhere throughout the fall and winter season. Some varieties of squash are milder than others, but you can expect varying degrees of sweet, buttery, earthy flavor across the board. In terms of health benefits, any gourd you get your hands on is guaranteed to give you an infusion of vitamin A, potassium and disease-fighting carotenoids.
Intensely bitter and somewhat spicy—radicchio, a member of the chicory family, is not everybody’s cup of tea. That said, it provides a palate-pleasing counterpoint to milder lettuces when tossed into salads, and its leaves—packed with magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C and K—are seriously good for you, so it’s worth giving this winter vegetable a try.
Though they may look alike, don’t confuse this guy for a type of lettuce. Cabbage is actually a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as kale, cauliflower and a few other cold weather favorites. What makes cabbage stand out from the crowd is that a single serving of the stuff provides a whopping amount of vitamins C and K. Best of all, cabbage is particularly easy to incorporate into one’s diet because, when cooked, its flavor is mild enough to melt into the background of nearly any dish.