If you're rolling your grocery cart around the store perimeter and the winter-fresh fruits and veggies seem too lackluster or weird-looking (what is a rutabaga, anyway?) to cook up every day, stop and roll back for a second look. Some of the biggest seasonal bargains in the produce aisle (like avocados, pomegranates, root veggies -- that's turnip, parsnip and yes, rutabaga -- and all that citrus) pack major flavor and a major health wallop.
Here are some easy tips for enjoying these winter gems more often.
Do more than dip
If you're saving your avocados for Friday-night guacamole, you're missing some of this fruit's best assets. In addition to boosting satisfaction by increasing levels of hormones called incretins that put the brakes on your appetite and slow digestion, munching half of one with your lunch can cut your craving for an afternoon snack by a whopping 40 percent. Plus, avocados can help you boost your omega-3 intake, reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol, bolster good HDLs and cut your risk for diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Easy eating: Slice a ripe avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and scoop out the soft fruit with a spoon. Slice or chunk into salads, soups and stews, and sandwiches. Use it mashed in place of mayo.
Nutrition trick: To make sure you get the dark-green flesh closest to the skin (it contains the highest levels of beneficial carotenoids, which feed your body's cell-protecting polyphenol system) slice the avocado in half lengthwise. Take out the seed and slice it in half again. Peel the skin off with your thumb to preserve more of the dark green yumminess.
Grab a grapefruit
This tart citrus is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, along with cancer-preventing lycopene (in the pink types) and naringenin, which may help lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. However, grapefruit and its juice can interfere with your intestinal wall's ability to process many medications, and that's risky. So make sure you check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if it conflicts with your meds before eating grapefruit. If it does, grab an orange instead.
Easy eating: Grapefruit is almost as easy to peel as an orange, making it the perfect take-along fruit. You can use peeled sections in fruit salad, salsas and delicious green salads paired with spinach and avocado.
Nutrition trick: Pair grapefruit sections and dark chocolate. Quercetin in citrus plus catechins in chocolate work together to discourage blood clotting.
Peel a pomegranate
You've probably heard that pomegranate juice may boost heart health by discouraging the buildup of plaque in arteries, and may help discourage cancers of the prostate and breast. What's behind those potential benefits? A host of 122 beneficial compounds in the red juice that surrounds each little pomegranate seed.
Easy eating: Wondering how to "break in" to that beautiful pomegranate you just purchased without making a mess? Cut off the top, cut the fruit into sections, and place in a bowl of cool water. Use your fingers to gently pull out the juice-filled seed sacs, then strain. Use in fruit salads or eat them plain.
Nutrition trick: Eating pomegranate as a fruit, rather than juice, means you get the heart-healthy omega-5 fatty acids found in the seeds.
Root, root, root
Turnips and rutabagas are cruciferous veggies, great sources of the same cancer-fighting compounds, called glucosinolates, found in broccoli, cabbage, watercress, arugula and kale. Pale, thin, long parsnips are closely related to carrots, and pack a good dose of vitamin C and potassium -- important for heart health.
Easy eating: Treat 'em like taters. Peel turnips and roast with sweet potatoes. Or steam peeled, cubed rutabagas or parsnips, then mash.
Nutrition trick: Make baked "oven fries" with peeled, sliced rutabagas or parsnips instead of potatoes. Season with garlic and rosemary or your own favorite spice combo.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, is host of "The Dr. Oz Show" and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.