Winter often means staying indoors, pulling out your comfy sweaters, and noshing on your favorite comfort foods. Keep the balance by adding heart-healthy seasonal produce to your diet.
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We're all used to the familiar red and green grapes, but have you ever tried the mighty Concord grape? They're only in season for a few short weeks in the fall, so Concord grapes are not always available in the produce section. Find a way to enjoy the benefits year round with Concord grape juice, like Welch's 100 percent grape juice. It's made by pressing whole Concord grapes to capture both the taste and the naturally occurring plant nutrients. Each glass offers two servings or 1 cup of fruit with no added sugar, color, or flavor, plus 250mg of natural grape polyphenols. Concord grapes provide many of the same polyphenols and heart-health benefits as red wine. Nearly 20 years of research shows that 100 percent grape juice helps support a healthy heart. Not a fan of drinking grape juice? Use it in a recipe, like the delicious tacos below.
Get the recipe: Chicken Tacos with Tomato and Grape Juice Salsa
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"One cup of cooked butternut squash provides over half the daily recommended amount of the antioxidant vitamin C and over 450 percent the daily recommended amount of vitamin A," says Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., nutrition partner with Pacific Foods. Both vitamins have anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to a healthy heart. "Butternut squash is also an excellent source of the mineral potassium, which is responsible for muscle contractions, including one of the most important muscles—your heart." (More squash recipes: 14 Healthy Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash)
Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Stew & Sage Beef Stew
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Pomegranates are generally enjoyed in one of two ways: You can eat the arils or drink pomegranate juice. This ruby red fruit contains a unique combination of antioxidants, including punicalagin, which is found exclusively in the pomegranate, and anthocyanin, which is responsible for giving pomegranates their red color. These antioxidants are particularly high in pomegranate juice, and they protect the body against unstable inflammatory molecules that can cause long-term damage to your heart and overall health.
Get the recipes: Pomsettia Cocktail or Winter Root Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate Ginger Dressing
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One thing I always say to clients about fruits and veggies is this: "The darker the color, the more nutrients." And what's darker than a deep purple beet? Beets contain a variety of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, carotenoids, and vitamin A, all of which protect the cells from oxidative damage and prevent numerous diseases, including heart disease. Beets are also an excellent source of folate, which is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Get the recipe: Spring Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts
Photo: Aggie's Kitchen
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Potatoes get a bad reputation as being a white, starchy, carb-loaded veggie without many nutrients. But that's completely untrue when you consider the elusive purple potato! One variety, aptly named the Purple Majesty, has almost twice the amount of anthocyanins found in any other produce. And the best part is that this type of potato tastes exactly like a white potato. What a delicious and heart-healthy veggie to add to all your winter dishes. (Psst...Can Potatoes Help Treat Depression?)
Get the recipe: Roasted Purple Potato Nourish Bowls
Photo: The Grateful Grazer
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What list of heart-healthy winter produce would be complete without kale? Loaded with antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, kale helps protect against various diseases. Kale also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight the inflammation associated with arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Plus, the fiber, potassium, and vitamin C found in kale all support heart health. Specifically, a diet rich in potassium has been linked to lower blood pressure.
Get the recipe: Kale Winter Salad with Apples and Pears
Photo: Nutrition à la Natalie
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Citrus fruits are most commonly associated with vitamin C and immunity, but they also contain heart-healthy flavonoids. The flavonoid found in citrus, called hesperidin, has been linked to boosting the good HDL cholesterol and lowering the bad LDL cholesterol. Having higher HDL and lower LDL can reduce your risk of stroke and of developing heart disease.
Get the recipe: Winter Citrus Salad with Pomegranate Rosemary Vinaigrette
Photo: Emily Kyle Nutrition