Winter yields healthful root and forest foods: squash, beets, mushrooms, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips. Pies and pastries grab our attention but winter vegetables are satisfying and add vibrant colors to everyday meals. In fact cup for cup no other season can compete with the nutritious feasts available using winter crops. Viruses are mighty this time of year yet your family will gain nutritious support by integrating root and forest vegetables in your weekly meals.

I'm a squash lover.  I get excited to see produce barrels overflowing with blue, green, orange, and yellow squash. Squash is a dignified vegetable, despite it's sometimes warty skin, and it's one of the oldest foods we eat dating back to the first Thanksgiving table. I like to cut it in half and bake it at 400 for thirty minutes to an hour with a pat of butter. The denser squash like Butternut, Buttercup or Hubbard benefit from an oven-safe cup of water to keep it moist during cooking and I sometimes baste it.

If you're a chef you already know how to prepare squash but did you know that it's loaded with Vitamin A and high in C, E, B6, niacin, potassium, iron and calcium to name a few? No food exceeds the percentage of antioxidants and carotenoids that winter squash can offer in a single cup. Its optimum ratio of fat to Omega 3 packs a powerful anti inflammatory, anti cancer, cardiovascular boost. Men, squash is a number one food protecting your prostate health. Among other benefits squash can help you breath easier, soothe arthritis, and improve vision. Is it on your grocery list?

Pair squash with beets or, if you don't like squash, substitute yams or sweet potatoes. The root crops offer high nutritive support. Deep red beets can take time to cook but they're well worth it for their anti aging properties! Nitrates in beets reduce blood pressure and improve stamina and, together with folate, they bolster cognitive health. Betalain properties in the color aid in cancer prevention and promote good digestion. Beet carotenoids improve vision and, combine with folate and antioxidants to reduce wrinkles. Juice beets for a supercharged effect. Boil beets and eat hot or cool for a salad. Either way beets will put a bounce in your step. Combine beets with a sweet potato for a double dose of anti aging protection. Sweet potatoes, holding more nutrition than yams, help protect eyes with outstanding vitamin A values and they boast high B6, C, potassium and many minerals.  Bake it, fry it in wedges or make a sweet potato pie just make sure to get your share of the support and protection available in winter root crops.

Mushrooms are available year round. They are fibrous, high in moisture, low in fat, and good sources of protein. They feature high B vitamins and are full of the antioxidant selenium. Glutamic acid in mushrooms promotes cognitive strength, muscle regeneration and energy production in our brains. Wild mushrooms of fall and winter offer even more!  Chantrelles are especially loaded with vitamin D for bone health and they're an A+ nutrition star boasting excellent nutritive benefit per calorie. Oyster mushrooms are particularly high in iron. Maitake, woodear, enoki or brick cap mushrooms that you may encounter at your winter farmer's markets are powerful medicinals in addition to delicious edibles. Maitakes fight diabetes and provide great cancer protection and immune support. Woodears can lower LDL cholesterol work as an anti-viral and immunity booster. Enoki regulates blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and shows effectiveness in inhibiting lung cancer. Brick caps also demonstrate promise in the fight against colorectal, lung and pancreatic cancers. Any style of mushroom will improve your daily health so consider adding this fungus to your winter foods.

Maybe I've neglected to profile your favorite winter food? If so, login and join me in blogging! Share your knowledge and enthusiasm. Why not juice some beets for a creative edge or tap into the energy that a few mushrooms can generate. Whether you're seeking stamina for the long winter months, better eyesight to write your blog, or protection from viruses and colds--- root crops, squash and mushrooms offer scrumptious support. Take advantage of the vitamin and mineral bounty so easily available in winter months and prepare yourself for delicious nutritious meals.