To counteract the effects of all that extra sugar and fat consumed in December, HuffPost UK Lifestyle have pulled together some of the healthiest foods available at this time of year.
Whether you want to boost your immune system with mushrooms or fight off viruses with the aid of garlic, these seasonal superfoods will help keep you healthy this winter.
Check out our nine delicious superfoods below and let us know which is your favourite
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Mushrooms provide a burst of flavor without adding many calories. A number of varieties have <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/types-of-mushrooms">antiviral, immunity-bosting and anti-inflammatory properities</a>, WebMD reported. Certain kinds, like shiitake, may <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162284">lower cholesterol and fight cancer</a>. They’re also rich in selenium, says Vandana Sheth, R.D., C.D.E., registered dietitian and spokesperson for the <a href="http://www.eatright.org/public/">Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics</a>. This antioxidant protects against heart disease, aging and some cancers, she says, and is often found in meat, making mushrooms a good pick for vegetarians. <strong>How to enjoy them:</strong> "One of the easiest ways to enjoy is in a salad raw,” says Sheth. “Or, sauté in a little olive oil and garlic. You get a little extra kick and still retain the nutrients,” she says. You can also try chopping the ‘shrooms, stir frying them and serving on top of toasts as a take on bruschetta.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> While its relative, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/october-superfoods_n_1930091.html#slide=1587484">cabbage, made our October list</a>, bok choy, which <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/in-season-bok-choy-choosing-storing-recipes-20100220.html">hits peak season in winter months</a>, carries many of the same benefits, says Sheth. "It's a good source of vitamin K, which plays a role in healthy bones, and research shows a connection between vitamin K and possibly some kind of benefit with Alzheimer's,” she says. <strong>How to enjoy it:</strong> "The simplest way is just steamed or stir fried," says Sheth. And be careful not to overcook it, which can sap both nutrients and flavor from the leafy green.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> Broccoli's healthy reputation is well deserved. It's loaded with fiber and vitamin C, low in calories and has one of the highest antioxidant ratings around, says Sheth. Broccoli also boasts calcium, iron, potassium and vitamins B, E and K for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162140">protection again cancer, heart disease, stroke, vision problems, bone loss and more</a>. <strong>How to enjoy it:</strong> If you're tired of the raw stuff in salads or steaming it for stir fries, get creative. Try it in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/broccoli-recipes_n_1514877.html#s971596&title=Creamy_Broccoli_Soup">cozy soup</a> or slice it extra thin for a <a href="http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/05/broccoli-slaw/">broccoli slaw</a>.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> Also known as <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/01/in-season-celeriac-choosing-picking-storing-20110122.html">celery root</a>, this earthy bulb is rich in fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. There's been some suggestion that celeriac can fight cancer, especially colon cancer, says Sheth. Its peak season ends in December, she adds, so get it while you can. <strong>How to enjoy it:</strong> Try roasting celeriac alongside other fall and winter veggies, with a little olive oil and fresh herbs and spices. "Enjoy it as a side dish or toss it on top of salads," Sheth suggests.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> This aromatic bulb can protect against certain cancers and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1840547.html#slide=1446563">help fight off bacteria and viruses</a>. Allicin, a compound found in garlic and its cousins, onions, “is a big source of cancer protection,” Sheth says. <strong>How to enjoy it:</strong> "You can get the benefits from a supplement, but there's nothing like eating it," she says. “It adds so much flavor to everything!”
Why we love them: "Avocado is one of my top superfoods," said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheryl-forberg-rd/">HuffPost blogger Cheryl Forberg</a>, a registered dietitian and nutritionist for The Biggest Loser. "Avocados from Mexico are available year round, so this is a great time for them, too." Among their many benefits? Forberg explained they are great sources of vitamins and fiber, lutein (a plant carotenoid) for eye health and good fats that help us feel full -- a great benefit for those of us looking to enjoy, but not go overboard, during the holidays. How to enjoy them: For a more seasonal take than, say, guacamole, simply try cutting avocados up and tossing them in a rich, wintry salad. Avocados are also good on hearty sandwiches, sliced or made into a creamy spread.
Why we love them: Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, said Roberta Duyff, a registered dietitian and author of the <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Dietetic-Association-Nutrition-ebook/dp/B000SEKKT4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1355309632&sr=8-2">American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide</a>. , and research has suggested they can help combat certain health problems, like urinary infections. How to enjoy them: Because cranberry season is in full-swing and will end soon enough, Duyff recommended stocking up on a few bags and throwing them in the freezer. Then, she said, you can use them like she does -- throw a handful into your morning smoothies with other fruit, yogurt and even uncooked oatmeal. Other options? Include cranberries in stuffing or in those baked goods that are so popular around the holidays.
Why we love it: Wild rice is a great source of fiber, Duyff said, and not actually rice, but rather a seed that grows in cold rivers and stream. It also provides vitamins, including B and E. How to prepare it: Duyff said wild rice can make for a great stuffing and can also work in soups and stews. It can be a little bit pricey, she said, so if that's a concern, she recommended using about half brown rice and half wild -- keeping in mind that cooking times for the two vary.
Why we love them: "Red beans are super high in antioxidants," explained Judy Caplan, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "[They are] number one on the ORAC scale." (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity units are a commonly used measurement for antioxidants.) How to enjoy them: Part of the reason why red beans are such a great December option is that they are perfect in hearty, but healthy, dishes. Caplan said they are great in bean soups and dips, as well as fillings for wraps.