By Karrie Osborn
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/ Winter 2003.
Farmer’s markets are closing their doors, your garden is being put to bed for the winter and road-side fruit stands are packing up their wares. Yet, now is not the time to relinquish your desire for fresh fruits to the winter doldrums. Even though you may not be able to pick a fresh strawberry from your own backyard planting or buy a bushel of apples from your local farmer, incorporating fruits into your winter health regimen will lighten dreary days and keep you and your spirits healthy.
Lemons — Indoor Sunshine
Keep several lemons on hand throughout the cold winter months for a variety of healthy uses. In addition to finding ways to add lemon to your diet — squeezed over fresh seafood, mixed with broccoli and asparagus for seasoning, and added to any basic pasta dish — this little treat can be used to make you look and feel better, too.
Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C and are known as one of nature’s best detoxifiers. Most internal body cleanses utilize the fresh juice of lemons, and many external cleanses do so as well. A refreshing and detoxifying bath recommended by Cheryl Townsley, author of Food Smart, is the juice of 2–3 lemons in a tub of hot water. Soak for 15 minutes a time, and space the baths one week apart for an average of six total baths. For a purely relaxing experience, add lemon, sea salts and rosemary to warm bath water. Sit back and enjoy.
High in potassium and vitamin B1, the lemon also has its implications for “looking good.” Just like the rest of the body, fingernails can benefit from the detoxifying effects of lemon juice, too. Soak your nails in lemon juice for 10 minutes, then brush them with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Rinse well.
For a refreshing facial cleanse, rub lemon juice over trouble spots (especially areas where clogged pores are evident) before going to bed. Rinse your face each morning with cool water and repeat the process until you see a change.
To accomplish your own facial peel, use lemon juice on sunspots several times a day. The acid of the juice peels off the upper layer of skin, eventually lightening or even eliminating the blemish entirely.
If ever there was a traditional summer fruit, watermelon is it. But this red, juicy fruit offers plenty of nutrition in November and December, too. Available to consumers every month of the year, domestic watermelon will show up in your grocer’s produce section from April to October, while imported versions arrive October to June. The health benefits of watermelon make up a long list, including its richness in vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as potassium. It’s also a good, albeit unfamiliar, source of iron, and taken as a juice, is a gentle, cleansing diuretic.
To lighten the typically fat-laden holiday parties of December, cut up a festive plate of watermelon and garnish it with green mint. You’ll have a wonderful red and green treat in which no one has to feel guilty indulging.
The Juiciest Grapes
A little bit like Mother Nature’s candy, grapes are proving to be extremely healthy treats. High in magnesium, grapes are a great therapeutic for bowel care. According to Townsley, grapes “promote the action of the bowel, cleanse the liver and aid in kidney function. They are alkalinizing to the blood and high in water content, so they add to the fluids necessary to eliminate hardened deposits found within the body.”
Recent studies also point to the benefits of grape juice: Consuming Concord grape juice improves arterial wall flexibility, reduced blood pressure and the ability to slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, as well as inhibit the tendency of blood to clot for stronger cardiovascular function.
For a fun way to serve grapes, place them in the freezer after a good washing. Eat them like candy or place them in glasses of champagne for more festive occasions.
A Berry Christmas
We’ve all associated cranberries with the holidays and Christmas trimmings, but they should also be associated with good health. Recent studies have found that drinking three glasses of cranberry juice each day raises the level of “good” cholesterol and increases antioxidant levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. In addition to its heart benefits, cranberries have long been known for their help preventing and relieving urinary tract infections. Research is also showing the berry may reduce the risk of gum disease, stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids and cancer.
In general, eating red berries (including cranberries, blackberries and black currants) on a regular basis may help protect you against the damage caused by free radicals. These berries contain a chemical called quercetin which has powerful anti-carcinogenic properties. Research has found that people with a high intake of berries in their diet have higher levels of quercetin in their blood, which could boost their protection against disease.
Even in the cold of winter, fruits of all shapes, colors and sizes can be found in abundance. We’ve only briefly touched on a few here. Seek out the freshest fruits and add them to your dinner table, because eating fruit each day will fight the sluggishness of winter by keeping your own internal systems active and healthy.
An apple a day is more than a cliche. It’s a wise bit of advice.