While the weather outside may be frigid, the produce shelves at the supermarket are overflowing with winter fruits from warm climates. These SmartCarbs are sweet, juicy and ideal for snacks or flavorful ingredients in your Flex meals. Even better, they’re packed with nutrients and fiber that protect your health and may even help speed up your weight loss results. Be sure to load your cart with these tasty winter fruits while they’re in season.
Here are six winter fruits you need to stock up on:
Why: Citrus kicks off our list of winter fruits. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruits and all the other members of the citrus family are rich in vitamin C, which helps support your immune system as it fights to ward off seasonal colds and flu. Recent research conducted by the American Chemical Society has also found that nutrients known as flavanones, which are abundant in citrus fruits, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes among overweight people. Fresh-squeezed juice has most of the nutrients, but eat the whole fruit to get all of the healthy fiber it contains.
Buy: Look for citrus fruit that feels heavy in your hand—that indicates it’s full of juice. The skin should be glossy and free of dry patches. Small tangerines (or clementines) are less firm than oranges, making the skin easier to remove.
Try: Use orange sections to add tangy flavor to salads (Hate peeling oranges? Check out this easy way to peel an orange! >). Roasting lemons subdues their sour taste and brings out their sweetness—squeeze them on baked chicken or seafood. This Vanilla Berry Grapefruit Smoothie Bowl > is one of our favorite breakfasts, with lots of protein and healthy fats to keep you energized all morning.
Why: One of the powerhouse winter fruits is the powerful pomegranate. These exotic fruits have emerged in recent years as a wildly popular “superfruit,” though they have been a staple of Middle Eastern diets for centuries. The seeds—or rather the juicy sacs around the seeds known as “arils”—are the tasty parts of the fruit, while the dry pulp is best discarded. (You can eat the whole arils, seeds and all.) The juice has a sweet-and-sour flavor that’s similar to that of a tart cherry. A half-cup of arils has just 72 calories, comes with three and a half grams of fiber and supplies you with a healthy dose of potassium. A study published in the scientific journal, Advanced Biomedical Research, reports that pomegranates contain micronutrients known as polyphenols that reduce inflammation and cholesterol, lowering your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Buy: Ripe pomegranates are not ball-shaped but rather may be lumpy or have flattened sides, where the seeds are pressing against the skin. Look for those that are dark red and firm, with smooth but tough skin. They are long-lasting, so you can store them in your refrigerator for up to two months. You can also buy just the arils already removed from the pulp—look for them in the refrigerated section of the produce department.
Try: Mix the arils in plain yogurt, a smoothie, or hot cereal. Use their tangy flavor to perk up plain seltzer. Toss the arils in salads made with greens or grains. Perk up roasted lamb or chicken with a quick relish made with pomegranate arils. Check out more ways to enjoy them here! >
Why: Pineapple is one of our favorite winter fruits. The sunny, sweet flavor of pineapple is like a taste of the tropics. The juicy, yellow flesh is loaded with vitamin C—more than 100 percent of your RDA in one cup—as well as fiber and potassium. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, helps ease digestion and, according to a study published in BioMedical Reports, helps prevent excess inflammation and may even inhibit the growth of tumors.
Buy: Look at the color of the skin: The more yellow a pineapple is, the more evenly flavored it will be. It should be firm, but yield gently when you press your thumb into it. It should also have a faint, sweet aroma at its base. Steer clear of any that are wrinkled or soft, or have an off-odor or brown leaves. Eat your pineapple within a week or so of bringing it home. You also can find peeled and chunked pineapple in the frozen foods department.
Try: Pineapple chunks and nonfat cottage cheese is a filling breakfast or snack. Grilling brings out the savory flavor of pineapple. Use it on shredded chicken or pork tacos, or as a topping on baked fish. Many people enjoy the sweet flavor on pizza. We like to start the day with Pineapple Upside Down Banana Pancakes! > Another absolute favorite is Pineapple Chicken Kebabs. >
Why: Once known as the Chinese gooseberry, kiwi is a fuzzy-skinned, oval-shaped fruit. Inside the brown exterior is bright-green flesh with dark, edible seeds. Many people find kiwi tastes like strawberries, but has a pulpier texture. Kiwis have a higher concentration of vitamin C than citrus fruits, plus a healthy dose of potassium. The fruit has a glycemic load of four, which makes it a good choice for people with diabetes.
Buy: Kiwis are about the size of an extra-large egg or small plum. Choose fruit that is plump, but yields to gentle pressure from your fingers. Hard kiwis are unripe, but you can soften them by placing them in a paper bag with a banana or apple for a couple days at room temperature.
Try: You can peel and cut kiwi into thin slices or just halve it and scoop out the tasty flesh with a spoon. (The fibrous skin is edible and many people enjoy eating it.) Add kiwi slices to salads with spicy greens. Our brilliant-green Kiwi Vanilla Smoothie > includes a PowerFuel and a serving of vegetables.
Why: Another one of our top winter fruits is the mango. Ripe mangoes taste similar to peaches, but are even more fragrant and sweet, though there are slight variations among the different varieties. Sour unripe mangoes are often used in recipes. The flesh inside the thin outer skin has texture like that of cantaloupe—firm but full of juice. In the center is one large, flat seed that’s easy to remove. A cup of mango has 100 calories and three grams of fiber. It provides 70 percent of your RDA for vitamin C and about 35 percent of the vitamin A you need each day, which helps bolster your immune system during the cold months.
Buy: A well-stocked supermarket may carry four or five different mango varieties, including those with skin that’s green when ripe, as well as the more familiar yellow and reddish types. Ataulfo is the sweetest and has the creamiest texture—its peak of availability is in the late winter. Whichever variety you find, mangoes are ripe when they begin to soften, like avocados and peaches. The skin may be a little wrinkly, but avoid any that have mushy spots—that’s too soft. You can also find mango chunks in the grocery store’s frozen food department.
Try: Mangoes become quite juicy and slippery when you cut into them. The easiest way to prepare them is to slice the fruit in half, remove the seed, then score the flesh with the tip of sharp knife to create cubes. Turn the halves over into a plate, bend back the skin and push the cubes loose with fingers. Or you can just cut the fruit in half and scoop it out with a spoon. Check out the easiest way to prepare them here! > Mangoes add lots of bulk and sweetness to smoothies > or to homemade chia puddings. > Toss cubed mango into grain salads. Pair slices of mango with jerk chicken and other spicy dishes. We love this simple yet delicious Mango Salsa > with Seafood.
Why: To complete our list of winter fruits, we want to talk about the awesome apple. We tend to think of apples as fall fruits, but many of the best-flavored varieties are abundant in winter, especially sweet types such as Fuji, Gala and the very popular Honeycrisp, along with tart Granny Smith. All of these varieties tend to have a very crisp texture, which allows them to stay fresh long after harvest. Apples are low in calories and high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, so they help you feel full and allow your body to gradually absorb their nutrients. The old saying goes that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but a study in the journal Nutrition reported that daily consumption of apples also correlated highly with weight loss among overweight women.
Buy: Skin color is not an indicator of an apple’s ripeness—each variety has its own hue, which may be more mottled or paler (or greener!) than others. With the winter varieties, look for fruit that’s heavy and firm. Press on the bottom to see how firm they are and avoid any that give or have soft spots. Apples will keep for weeks in a cool, dry place—no need to store them in the refrigerator. If you do put them in the fridge, remove them from plastic bags, which trap humidity and can lead to rot.
Try: Apples are the easiest to-go snacks, so you can take them with you to eat at your workplace or in the car. Layer thin slices of apples in turkey sandwiches. Dab a little peanut butter on apple slices for some protein and healthy fats. Dice tart Granny Smith apples and add them to salads. For a quick and healthful dessert, make a batch of our Cinnamon Spice Baked Apples! >