While on vacation in Florida from snowy and cold New York, it has become obvious to me that the “winter blues” is a real thing! 🥶 Living somewhere that has a longer winter with stretches of little to no sunshine can definitely create a tough time of year for many people.
For some, the darkness of the season can trigger feelings of depression, while others may struggle with a lack of energy due to cold weather and the tendency to stay indoors. While true depression can only be treated under the care of a mental health professional, we can take proactive steps to combat the “winter blues” and explore ways to stay healthy and energized through good nutrition.
Eating the right foods during the winter months can provide much-needed vitamins and minerals that may help to boost your mood, increase energy levels, and keep you feeling your best.
Here are 5 tips to help you combat the “winter blues” through nutrition:
1. Eat more fruit and vegetables. This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. The more fresh, whole food we are eating, the less processed food we are consuming. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that can help to improve your mood and keep you feeling energized.
As I discussed in a previous post, eating plenty of seasonal produce such as apples, oranges, carrots, kale, and spinach has immense benefits to our health. Additionally, eating the colors of the rainbow in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables is an easy, effective and fun way to get the most out of your nutrition during the winter months.
2. Increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to have a positive impact on mood, as well as improving cognitive function.They have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects which also lower your risk for chronic diseases. Foods such as salmon, oysters, tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Get plenty of vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, which helps to protect your bones and promotes healthy cell growth. Most people don't get enough vitamin D during the winter months due to lack of sun exposure. For this reason, it is important to include vitamin D-rich foods such as eggs, dairy products, and mushrooms.
Another great way to get vitamin D is to get outside when it’s sunny - even if it’s cold! If you’re not a fan of the cold, bundle up and commit to just a 10 minute walk in the sun. I’m willing to bet your mood will improve and you’ll be grateful that you made yourself get some fresh air!
4. Incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet. This nutrient has been linked to improved mood since it helps regulate our serotonin levels. Food sources of magnesium include spinach, nuts, seeds, edamame and black beans.
5. Get those B vitamins! The group of B vitamins (B6, B9 and B12) are instrumental in our cell regulation. B9, or folate/folic acid, plays a role in the synthesis and regulation of serotonin. Spinach, avocado, black eyed peas, kidney beans and dark leafy greens are great sources of this vitamin.
When looking at how B6 helps our mood, we find that it also aids in the production of serotonin and dopamine so you’re going to want to stock up on bulgar wheat, chicken breast, salmon, tuna and chickpeas!
Finally, we know that B12 is important for DNA synthesis and keeping our nerves and blood cells healthy. You can get this crucial vitamin mostly from animal sources like beef, chicken, fish and other seafood and eggs.
Making sure that you’re eating nutritious, mood-boosting foods is key to staying positive and energized during the winter months. Eating a balanced diet that focuses on these 5 types or groups of foods can help you fight off the “winter blues" and keep you feeling energized and positive all winter long!
Want to incorporate more whole foods into your family’s weekly meals but don’t know where to start? Grab my FREE 7 Day Meal Plan to have some easy meal options on hand. Substitute in any of the above foods where appropriate and you’ll be sure to beat the “winter blues”!
So head to the grocery store, fill your cart with some of these healthy foods, and prioritize movement throughout the day.
Don’t let the “winter blues" get you down!
Wishing you health and wellness,