A butternut squash sliced in half on a golden background.

D uring the summer, when farmers markets and supermarkets are overflowing with fresh produce, it’s easy to pack your diet with nourishing fruit and vegetables.

As the weather cools and the bounty dwindles though, you might think the produce aisle looks a little less inviting. 

But look closer: There are plenty of options available all winter that are delicious and pack the essential vitamins and minerals that have been linked to healthier aging.

These five are particularly good for you and worth putting on your shopping list. 

Pears

Why they’re so good for you: Snacking on a large pear provides you with 7 grams of fiber. “Getting adequate fiber not only helps with bowel regulation and keeping your GI tract healthy but also helps regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol,” says Julia Zumpano, R.D., a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. 

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Research has also linked high-fiber diets to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline.

Easy eating: Pears are delicious raw (add slices to a salad) or baked with a bit of cinnamon for a sweet dessert—no added sugar necessary. Leave the skin on to maximize the fiber.

Cauliflower

Why it’s so good for you: Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage) contain fiber, antioxidants, and unique chemicals called glucosinolates that may have some anti-cancer power.

A 2012 study published in the Annals of Oncology found that people who ate those vegetables at least once a week had a lower risk of several types of cancer.

Easy eating: Roasted cauliflower is tasty and may be easier to digest. “You can also steam it and mash it with some low-sodium chicken broth,” Zumpano suggests. And check your store’s freezer section for “riced” cauliflower, which you can use in place of rice.

Butternut Squash

Why it’s so good for you: The orange flesh that’s revealed when you crack open butternut squash “means that it contains lots of beta carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A,” says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D.N., chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida. “Beta carotene is essential for maintaining vision, especially night vision, and it’s also important for keeping your immune system strong.”

Easy eating: Butternut squash can be tricky to cut. If you’re having trouble, score the skin, microwave for a few minutes, and let it cool. Then you can cut it into halves and bake it cut side down in a pan with a little water or oil. Afterward, just peel and chop it into cubes, mash it, or purée it to add to soups and sauces.

Beets

Why they’re so good for you: Antioxidants including betalain give red beets their distinctive deep color as well as their anti-inflammatory powers. Beets are also rich in nitrates, which research has shown may help widen blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Easy eating: Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness. Wright also suggests puréeing cooked beets and mixing them into hummus. “You get the protein of the hummus, the nutrients of the beets, and a dip that’s a beautiful pink color,” she says.

Walnuts

Why they’re so good for you: Eating less than an ounce of walnuts provides you with an adequate daily intake of ALA fatty acids, a type of heart-healthy omega-3 fat, according to Meaghan Reardon, R.D., a research dietitian at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “Replacing some animal protein with plant protein reduces your intake of saturated fats,” she says.

Easy eating: Chop them up and add them to oatmeal, salads, and smoothies. You can also toast them, then purée them with a little salt to make walnut butter.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the November 2019 issue of Consumer Reports On Health