A long, dreary winter can easily get you down, but paying special attention to your food intake may help combat this seasonal slump. Healthy eating has a positive influence on your mood and attitude while reducing stress, anxiety, and the symptoms of depression. Try incorporating healthy foods that are loaded with these nutrients to beat the winter blues.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acids that is not produced by the body, so it must be consumed from foods. It works with other vitamins and minerals to make serotonin, a neurostransmitter (a chemical messenger in the body). Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, and higher levels of serotonin may help improve mood.
Foods that contain tryptophan: Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in fish and some plant foods. They are important for the health of the brain and the central nervous system. Mood swings and depression are some of the symptoms associated with omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout and sardines, algae, nuts and nut oils.
Vitamin B12 plays a part in the production of brain chemicals that influence mood. Other B vitamins, like B6 and folate, also play a role, but inadequate B12 can be of special concern for vegetarians. It’s possible to get the B12 you need, but this is a vitamin that requires special attention when cutting out animal products. Low levels of B vitamins have been linked to depression.
Foods that contain vitamin B12: Lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs.
Low magnesium has been found to reduce levels of serotonin. Getting adequate magnesium can be accomplished by eating magnesium-rich foods, but also stay aware of other foods and drinks that have been found to lower magnesium, such as excess coffee, soda, salt, and alcohol.
Foods that contain magnesium: Whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D is most often associated with bone health, but levels may also be related to mood disorders. Studies show that low levels of vitamin D are linked to a greater risk for depression. While the easiest way to boost vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, it can also be consumed through food.
Foods that contain vitamin D: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, fortified dairy, and eggs.
Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Lower intakes of selenium have been linked to poor mood. One study in older adults suggests that adequate selenium intake may reduce the symptoms of depression.
Foods that contain selenium: Seeds, Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, and whole grains.
Berries offer a unique set of nutrients that protect against disease and promote a healthy weight. With so many types to choose from, it is easy to incorporate these fruits into your eating plan, allowing you can take full advantage of the nutritional benefits.
Low in calories, but full of fiber
Most berries have fewer than 80 calories in one cup of fresh fruit. The high water content and fiber in berries helps you feel full and satisfied. The fiber in berries is also linked to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduced risk for some types of cancer.
Important vitamins and antioxidants
Nutrients in berries have been found to reduce the risk of disease and slow the mental decline associated with aging. Berries are rich in vitamin C, which promotes healthy collagen that can lead to healthier joints and improved flexibility. The folate in berries may help protect against heart disease and promote healthy vision.
Berries are also rich in antioxidants that fight the free radicals linked to chronic disease. Anthocyanins are the antioxidants that give berries their deep colors. They have been found to reduce inflammation and are linked to the prevention of pain associated with arthritis. Quercetin is a flavonoid and antioxidant that also contributes to the color of berries. It may help reduce the plaque build up on artery walls that leads to heart attack, and it’s linked to reduced levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Flavonoids, like quercetin, may also inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
The variety of berries makes it nearly impossible to get bored of eating these healthy fruits. Available at different seasons throughout the year, you can incorporate all types of berries to maximize the health benefits. Strawberries are at their peak in late spring to early summer, and they are soon followed by raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Cranberries come into season in the late fall. During the winter months try using frozen, unsweetened berries in your smoothies, or cook them with your oatmeal. The more varieties you eat, the more unique nutrients you will consume.
It’s easy to keep using the same leafy greens over and over, but you will eventually get tired of eating them. Branch out and incorporate some new nutritious greens into your healthy eating plan. These greens are full of flavor, and they can be used in a variety of ways.
When compared to other leafy greens, beet greens are one of the best sources for potassium. They also contain vitamins A and K. Try adding beet greens as a filling for warm sandwiches in place of spinach or arugula.
Like many leafy greens, the Asian vegetable bok choy is part of the cruciferous family. This means that it is packed with unique antioxidants that are known for their anti-cancer properties. Thinly slice bok choy, and add it to your salads, or stir it into a healthy vegetable fried rice .
Chard supplies vitamins A and K as well as magnesium. Chard ranges in color from true green leaves to stalks that are purple, pink or yellow that fade into dark green leaves. Chopped chard leaves are delicious when added to an omelet or sautéed with garlic and lemon for a quick side dish.
Tender turnip greens are a source for calcium and vitamins A, C and K. They cook quickly so you can easily sauté them in garlic and olive oil for a healthy side dish, or stir the sliced greens into a vegetable soup about 5 minutes before serving.
Mustard greens are similar to turnip greens in nutrition, offering calcium and vitamins A, C and K. These greens have a unique peppery taste that can add a whole new flavor to healthy dishes. Chop and sauté mustard greens with a milder green like kale to balance the flavor. Mustard greens are also delicious in Asian-inspired dishes like stir-fried minced pork or tofu with vegetables.
Cooking your meals gives you better control of your nutrient intake, but it can be time- consuming. Don’t give up! You can get wholesome, nutritious food on the table with these shortcuts for healthy cooking.
Prep when you return from the store.
As soon as you unpack your groceries, grab the cutting board, knives and storage containers. Half of cooking is preparation, and you can save time on a busy night by having your ingredients ready to go. It is true that some fruits and vegetables may lose nutrients when they are cut, but this approach is better than swinging in the drive-through when you are pressed for time.
Chop up bell peppers and onions to make fajitas. Make cucumber slices, carrot sticks and celery sticks to snack on with hummus or Greek yogurt dip. Chop up mixed greens and store them in a bowl for quick salads throughout the week. Cut broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts so you can quickly season and roast them for an easy side dish.
Rinse away sodium in canned foods.
Canned foods make cooking easier, but excess sodium in beans and vegetables can be a problem. Rinsing canned foods and draining the liquid can drastically cut the sodium levels. Research shows that rinsing canned beans can reduce the sodium content up to 40 percent.
Get a spray bottle for oils.
When heart-healthy oils are turned into a spray, they can be used in many different ways. Spray oils can be used to lightly dress salads, to coat vegetables before roasting, and to grease casserole dishes and muffin pans. Invest in a spray bottle with a pump that allows you to turn your favorite healthy oil into an easy-to-spray mist.
Buy pre-chopped toppings.
Toppings like nuts and dried fruits add flavor without excess calories when they are finely chopped and evenly distributed throughout your salad or side dish. Look for pre-chopped versions of these ingredients to save time during cooking.
Make the sides.
Side dishes provide an opportunity to boost your nutrient intake. If you are pressed for time, consider turning to a pre-made main course. Many delis carry pre-made burgers, veggie patties, and rotisserie chicken. Check ingredient lists to make sure these foods are not loaded with unhealthy ingredients, but otherwise, this little bit of help can save you time in the kitchen. Once the main course is taken care of, you can concentrate on making fresh greens, roasted vegetables and cold grain salads to keep your meals packed with nutrients.
Hydration is important for almost every function in the body from your heart pumping blood to using your muscles for movement. Letting yourself get dehydrated can zap your energy and leave you sluggish and unmotivated. There is more than one way to give your body the fluid it needs. Use a combination of these foods and drinks to stay hydrated.
Water is by far the best way to hydrate. While drinking too much can have a negative impact, sipping water throughout the day and drinking it with your meal is a great way to boost hydration and cut calories.
Sparkling Flavored Water
If you find plain water boring and have a difficult time cutting out sodas, try sparkling flavored waters. Look for calorie-free waters with natural flavors and no added sugars or artificial sweeteners. They can be a great substitute for plain water when you need something with a little flavor and fizz.
100% Fruit Juice
Choose your juices wisely, because many are high in calories. But this doesn’t mean that all juices are bad. Many 100% juices are rich in antioxidants, such as pomegranate juice and tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice has also been associated with reducing muscle soreness. Keep servings small and use juice as a treat and a healthy way to to satisfy a sweet craving.
Whether it’s a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea or a cup of hot tea, the main ingredient is water. Teas can serve as a source of hydration and make a good alternative when you get tired of plain water. For even more flavor, look for fruit and spice infused decaffeinated teas without added sweeteners.
Fruit and Vegetables
Hydration doesn’t only come from drinks. Many fruits and vegetables are mostly water. Berries, watermelon, citrus, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, radishes, and celery are just a few examples that are high in water content.