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Eating seasonally will offer you the freshest and generally greatest value in produce. Seasonal fruits and vegetables not only taste more flavorful when they are at their peak, but buying in season also is better on the planet and is healthier for you. When fruits and vegetables are grown in the right condition and month, they maintain more nutrition than if they were grown out of season.

“Foods lose flavor just as they lose moisture when they are held. Fresh, locally harvested foods have their full, whole flavors intact, which they release to us when we eat them,” said Susan Herrmann Loomis, owner of On Rue Tatin Cooking School, according to Gaiam Life. “Foods that are chilled and shipped lose flavor at every step of the way – chilling cuts their flavor, transport cuts their flavor, being held in warehouses cuts their flavor.”

When foods are scarce because they are out of season, they cost more (sometimes, a lot more)! These foods also may come from far distances because there is a small supply of such a fruit or vegetable. Thus, the added travel contributes more to your carbon footprint when you purchase such out of season produce.

Protect the environment, keep more cash in your stash, be healthier, and eat the most delicious produce possible. It’s a win-win-win-win situation! So go ahead, try eating locally with some of these seasonal winter vegetables in January:

1. Carrots

Carrots give a dish their lovely, vibrant orange color. From red, orange, yellow, white, and purple, this crisp root vegetable is available in almost a rainbow of colors. Carrots provide carotenoids, which help fight against certain diseases such as heart disease. They also contain beta-carotene, which our body turns into Vitamin A. This helps provide us with awesome vision and beautiful skin.

Carrots also help make tasty desserts, like this Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting and this Khajur Gajar Halwa (Carrot and Date Pudding with Coconut and Cardamom). Feel like eating Japanese for tonight? Get the most nutrients out of carrots with Raw Carrot Sushi. Instead of throwing away that carrot top, try adding it to salad. It is a great replacement for parsley! Can’t get enough of carrots? Check out our 10 Must-Have Carrot Recipes.

2. Kale

Kale, hailed as a “2013 Food Trend,” “King Kale,” “superfood,” and so many other titles, is one of January’s seasonal vegetables.  This slightly bitter, leafy green is packed with tons of beta-carotene (like carrots!), which provides Vitamin A, as well as provides Vitamin B6, C, K; iron; calcium; and fiber. This “holy grail” of vegetables can be eaten raw like in this Raw Massaged Kale Salad with Fresh Figs and Oranges or cooked such as  in this Lentil-Kale Vegan Risotto. Kale also makes a heck of a green smoothie! Add a bunch to your daily morning or workout smoothie for an added boost in nutrition. Wanna know more about this wonder vegetable? Learn about it here.

3. Cauliflower

This member of the Brassicaceae family provides an excellent source of Vitamin C and K. Vitamin K acts as a anti-inflammatory nutrient for our bodies. This vegetable is great eaten raw with a dip, tossed into salads, or in cooked dishes like this Indian Alu Gobi (Curried Potatoes and Cauliflower with Green Peas). Trying to avoid too many carbs? Try this CauliMash that can fool anyone into thinking it’s made with potatoes.

4. Parsnips

Parsnips look similar to their cousin, the carrot. They are sweetest when it’s cold, so it makes sense that they are at its’ peak during the winter. Parsnips provide folate, potassium, and Vitamins C, E, and K. These bad boys are considered to be more nutritious than carrots!

Parsnips make a great replacement for butter in mash potatoes because they provide a creamy texture. Try this Vegetable Lentil Soup with parsnips or this parsnip-included Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup to warm up during this chilly weather.

5. Cabbage

Cabbages are packed with folate, fiber, Vitamin C, and K. They are so versatile, as they are able to mingle well in  a salad, soup, and in condiments such as this Raw Sauerkraut. Who needs cabbage in a boring salad when you can make it in this Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage, and Kelp Noodle Bowl?  They also make great house party food in dishes such as this Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Beer.

6. Beets

Beneath their rough exterior, these beauties are packed with fiber, iron, beta-carotene, and folic acid. Don’t trash the leafy tops of this vegetable! The leafy green tops are more nutritious than the beets themselves! They provide double the iron, calcium, and folate.

Try beets in these Roasted Beet Burger Patties (which kind of look like uncooked meat, but trust me, it’s delicious!) Or, for something more fancy, how about this Beet, Fennel, and Lime Vegan Pate. Interested in other beet recipes? Check out this 10 Simple Beet Recipes roundup.

7. Winter Squash

Winter Squash comprises of a range of funny-looking gourds, from acorn squash to butternut. These winter squash are packed with powerful nutrient, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They contain Vitamin A, C, B6, folate, and potassium.

Don’t let their funny exterior deter you from enjoying their nutritional benefits. Try making something as simple as Butternut Squash Lasagna or creative like this Butternut Squash Taco with Vegan Tempeh Chorizo. For a fancy get-together, how about trying this Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf.

8. Grapefruit

Surprisingly, citrus is a seasonal winter produce, with grapefruit being at the forefront of these. Grapefruit is high in Vitamin C and helps aid in weight loss because it contains enzymes that help burn fat. This red and pink fruit is also high in water content, which helps you feel fuller. It also contains essential nutrients like iron, potassium, and manganese.

Although grapefruit is great eaten raw, try these interesting twists on this citrus: Grapefruit Eggplant Fries or this Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grapefruit and Anise.

If you can, buying seasonally is always a great thing. It can open you up to a world of fruits and vegetables you have never tried, heard of, or really liked. Try one of these seasonal winter vegetables today!

Image Source: Kale Salad with Apricots and Almonds 

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