Fill Your Plate This Winter with Fruits From Outside the Northwest

Healthy Eating Friday, January 10, 2014 Written by

Now that we’ve survived the nutty holiday gatherings, it’s time to focus on doing the body good. Move over apples and pears – more exotic winter produce has come to town. Just because these fruits aren’t grown here in the Northwest, doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

Citrus calling

Health benefits abound in sunny fruits packed with vitamin C. Citrus helps keep winter colds at bay and aids the immune system in combatting seasonal enemies like the flu. Studies have also shown that high citrus diets reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer like esophageal, mouth, larynx, pharynx and stomach. Citrus fruits, especially lemons and limes, also help alkalize the body, restoring its pH balance.

Orange you glad you like ’em?Orange

Hesperidin, a natural antioxidant found in an orange’s peel and inner white membrane, has been shown to reduce inflammation while lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol. Feeling adventurous? Try the Cara Cara orange, a cross between the Washington navel and Brazilian Bahia navel and marked by a sweetly-flavored, reddish-pink flesh. Or try the Blood/Moro orange, crimson in color and tart in taste.

The citrus situation

Kumkquats

Store citrus in the refrigerator in a paper bag, where it should keep for between two weeks and a month. Consider buying organic citrus, especially oranges. Research suggests it will contain higher amounts of vitamin C and won’t risk injections of artificial dye intended to give the fruit more vibrant hues. Also brighten the winter months with juicy clementines, satsumas (a variety of tangerine with few seeds), Rio Star grapefruits (a blend of two Texas varieties) and kumquats, a tiny fruit with sweet, edible skin and a tangy interior.

Whole Foods provides refreshing citrus recipe ideas: for a day packed with delicious citrus options, start with a Sunny Citrus Smoothie, snack on Sesame Orange Greens, and later treat yourself to Mandarin Cake.

Think outside the basketQuince

Jazz up your grocery cart with winter options like quinces. Although they resemble apple and pear relatives, they are actually much healthier. The Chinese quince features the highest levels of flu-fighting nutrients, but California’s Pineapple quinces and the East Coast’s Orange and Smyrna varieties have great benefits too. Find these fruits in many Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and consider cooking them into recipes for better taste.

Also try antioxidant powerhouses rambutans, lychees and longans (also called “dragon’s eye”), native to China but now grown in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Simply peel fragile rambutans and enjoy; they keep only a day or two at room temperature, and then need to be refrigerated (longans too). Persimmons‘ flavor and texture have been compared to plums or apricots, and they contain high doses of dietary fibers, minerals and compounds that prevent heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

You can find other winter fruit recipes on chow.com and vegetariantimes.com. Here’s to a sunny, energetic 2014!