By Shaista Tariq

Winter is a terrific time to enjoy food laden with fiber, color and flavour. We tend to eat more in winter, be it because of holidays or because the body craves more energy. As days grow shorter in the fall and winter, many of us feel a little more sluggish. Since food affects mood, there are various things we can do.

Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.

-Hippocrates

The food on your plate has the power to brighten your mood as long as you choose the right bite. Both immunity and emotional well-being are within reach, with the right nutrients, and the right foods. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are not only super healthy, but can also increase happiness, lessen symptoms of depression, and quell anxiety.

Here are some foods that help you do just that.

Mood Boosting Vitamins, C & D

Winter is the season for fresh citrus. Everyone knows about Vitamin C‘s immunity- boosting powers. It’s also high in antioxidants and can increase energy levels and lower anxiety. Most people associate vitamin C with fruits, particularly those of the citrus variety, there are other options like parsley, broccoli and cauliflower.

Vitamin D has been linked to huge increase in immunity as well as lowered depressive symptoms. Vitamin D is best synthesized from the sun by our skin. But, during those dark winter months, anything solar isn’t the most viable option. Food-wise, egg yolks and fatty fish are the best ways to get vitamin D. People with dietary restrictions that do not allow for these options may wish to seek supplementation.

 

Fatty Acids

Numerous studies confirm that Omega-3 fats, such as those found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, are not only great for general health, they can also help lower the incidence of depression. In fact, the more fish the population of any country eats, the less depressed they are likely to be.

Vitamins & Minerals

Increase Vitamin B intake. B vitamins, in particular B12, folic acid and B6, are essential for serotonin production, proper nervous system function and emotional wellbeing. Deficiencies in B vitamins are commonly seen in people with depression. Foods rich in B vitamins include legumes, wholegrain, meat, fish, milk and leafy green vegetables (folate).

Magnesium relaxes the muscles and supports good sleep. Top sources for magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, soybeans, cashews, black beans and sunflower seeds.

Foods To Include In Your Winter Diet

Nothing beats a hot bowl of oatmeal in the winter. It is full of nutrients and phytochemicals that keep you full and provide lasting energy.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin B, protein and folate. They also help protect the immune system. They are loaded with vitamin E, an antioxidant that prevents cell damage, supports healthy skin and hair and can even prevent cancer.

Chia seeds contain large quantities of iron, folate, calcium, magnesium and omega -3 . Its soluble fiber increases the duration of satiety, meaning you are less likely to overeat.

Honey is the most natural sweetener. But be careful not to overdo it- at equal volume, it contains more calories than sugar. It’s a good source of antioxidants and its microbial properties make it an ally during the winter.

Kefir is a beverage made from fermenting milk (similar to yogurt) is particularly rich in vitamins B1 and B2, calcium, folic acid, magnesium and vitamin A. What makes kefir unique is its fermentation process, which greatly facilitates digestion. This allows the body to focus on the absorption and assimilation of nutrients and proteins necessary for the growth and regeneration of muscles and bones. In addition, kefir contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that relaxes the nervous system.

Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, fish, low-fat dairy and nuts, provide vitamins and minerals and are so satisfying you won’t want to overeat.

Foods To Avoid

Processed refined sugar sends insulin levels soaring, which in turn sparks a roaring craving for more sweet stuff. Sweet begets sweet. When you don’t get your sugar fix, a crash follows. Use stevia instead, an herb that provides sweetness with no effect on insulin levels.

Caffeine has its perks, but it can pose problems too.  Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee. Tea, which has about one-fourth the caffeine as coffee, is a better choice. There are non-caffeinated herbal teas choices, as well.

Stock your pantry with foods that will boost your mood and immunity in the coldest months of the year and ward of winter blues. There’s no reason you can’t maintain a positive outlook on life if you eat right!

About the author:

Shaista Tariq is an M.Sc., B.Sc. in Applied Science in Nutrition and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

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