Now that we’re into the colder months, fresh fruits and vegetables become less available. We tend to turn to comfort things such as soups, carbohydrates, and creamy foods that help us feel full and warm inside. However, often people (myself included) forget about “winter” produce because they are not as common and can take some out of the box thinking to cook with.
Luckily, Alabama as a state has a mild climate and a long growing season, which means more readily available produce for us. If there is a certain time of year a person were to become malnourished or pack on the pounds, it is definitely in the winter months. Thanksgiving through New Years feasting and parties does not help the matter, but statistically winter is when the most weight is put on. So what can we do to make sure we are always getting the proper nutrients and not adding inches to our waistline?
Here in Tuscaloosa, we are very fortunate to have the River Market year around on Saturday mornings to purchase produce that is grown here in the area. Also, as I drive into work on Highway 69 South heading toward town, there is a stand along the side of the road with fresh fruits and veggies most days of the week. Area grown produce is always best, as we need to support our local farmers. However, regardless of how or where we get them, they need to be on our plate year around.
The following items are in season right now in Alabama and should be easily available and fresh! Also, I included some nutritional facts to show the benefits and hopefully win you over to start eating them if you are not already.
Carrots – you might have heard that these orange sticks help with vision, or that is what they tell us in school nonetheless. This is true! Carrots contain beta-carotene, which help nourish the retina and specifically help with night vision. Along with this, they have been shown to prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Chard – this dark leafy green provides 300% of your daily value of vitamin K. Vitamin K aids in blood clotting and preventing heart disease. It contains phytonutrients or what I like to call them, FIGHT-O-NUTRIENTS. They help fight and prevent diseases. Research has shown that chard can actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Collard Greens – Are an excellent source of Vitamin A and K, providing 222% and 426% respectively of your daily intake. The stems and leaves are high in minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

Fennel– Contains lots of antioxidants, meaning it has properties to help prevent cancer from forming. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect which would highly benefit those with arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Green Onions – One of the properties of green onions that I find fascinating is that it helps speed up blood circulation and absorb vitamin B1. What does this mean? This helps reduce fatigue, which I believe is a common issue we face in the winter months with the decreased amount of daylight. In ancient days, green onions were used to fight the common cold.
Kale – Contains 3 grams of protein per serving, which is huge for a vegetable. It is high in fiber, which aids in controlling blood sugar levels and helps you feel fuller longer. It is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. Personally, if you throw a handful in a smoothie you will not even notice (Other than it might turn your smoothie green!).

Mushrooms – One of the few vegetables that are an excellent source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has an important role of promoting healthy bones by aiding in Calcium absorption. Mushrooms are also high in B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help support our nervous system.

All right! So you have a list of produce that is growing right now in our state. If you don’t eat these items already, try adding one to your diet each week. Make sure you are buying organic if possible. I know it is more expensive, however it is worth every penny. Organic produce means the pesticide exposure was kept at a safe standard thus decreasing the harmful side effects and increasing nutritional quality. Statistically, organic produce has about 50% more antioxidants than non-organic. I know it isn’t realistic to always buy organic—it does get pricey and it isn’t as readily available, which is another reason why it costs more. There are natural vinegar- based sprays to soak your produce in to safely remove the chemicals. Fortunately for us, our body does an amazing job of filtering out toxins and harmful chemicals through digestion and elimination. The only time this isn’t the case is if we have a disconnect between our nervous system and digestive organs or if our bodies are overloaded with toxicity. This is the cause of many problems such as acid reflux, irritable bowl syndrome, and many other digestive problems. These conditions are preventable and can be treated naturally by eliminating interference, which allows our body to function properly.
So the bottom line is, although it is winter there is still fresh produce available in our area. Shop local, the produce will be fresher and you will be supporting our community and local farmers. Lastly, when possible- buy organic! If you have any more questions or would like more information on detoxification, call my office at 345-5035. As it is the New Year, to help kick start all those health related resolutions, I am offering a complimentary consultation to any readers who are interested! Happy 2015, I hope your year is full of happiness, laughter, and great health!

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