Nutrition & Mental Health: Winter
As a farmer growing with the rhythms of nature, the seasons play a large part in my routine, diet, energy levels, and mood. When winter rolls around, it’s time to slow down, turn toward home projects, and enjoy summer’s preserves, root vegetables, and nutritious warm soups. Without those sunny days in the garden, soaking up the vitamin D, I look to mood-boosting dishes and beverages as medicine to boost my energy and combat the winter blues.
The Food-Mood Connection
While a tropical state of mind can get you far, a fluid attitude & approach to seasonal influences, anchored in a nutritious diet, will get you farther. As nature moves us through shorter days and cold months, our bodies ask for warm foods & drinks that will ground us and help to balance out our own internal season.
Additionally, integrating plants and herbs into our diet supports our nervous system and heals us from the inside out.
Here are a few great ways to support mental health with nutrition throughout winter:
Tea & Warm Beverages
In Ayurvedic terms, your agni is the digestive fire which regulates your temperature and aids in the digestion and absorption of food, transforming it into energy. Since the winter time is all about increasing that internal fire to balance out the external cold, an agni tea is a simple way to keep your metabolism going, promote circulation, and increase your energy levels.
Herbal teas in general are great winter beverages that can keep your internal fire stoked, and the right blend can help settle you into a calm evening. My go to winter bevvy is a simple ginger, lemon, and honey; but if tea isn’t your, well, cup of tea, give this mushroom hot chocolate from Mountain Rose Herbs a try!
Mood Boosting Dishes
The key strategy for the winter should be to keep your blood sugar balanced, consume good fatty foods, and make sure you’re eating lots of protein and vitamin B. As far as mental health goes, eating well in the winter can help ward off any cycle of depression and poor eating habits.
Avoid foods that are rich in sugar (mood crash alert!), and opt for dishes that are filled with nutrients. Let hearty stews & soups warm you up from the inside, go with ‘sunny’ dishes that incorporate eggs, and brighten your days with citrus.
Here’s a list of some winter mood-boosting foods to incorporate into your diet:
- Salmon – a top dietary source of vitamin D + rich in the mood boosting omega-3 fatty acids
- Eggs – great source of Vitamin D (and ‘sunny’!)
- Soups – you can add lentils, grains and greens for a seriously nutritious soup (opt for broths over heavy creams)
- Fermented foods = healthy gut = happy system
- Foods with folate – such as spinach, brussel sprouts, and legumes support the production of dopamine and can help regulate mood
- Citrus – pair your citrus with a leafy green for a feel good dish
- Sweet potatoes – packed with vitamin C and can help with inflammation
- Turmeric – among many things, turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory & antioxidant and can help with depression. Click here to learn about more of it’s great benefits.
- Dark chocolate – high in antioxidants (check out the delicious mushroom hot chocolate recipe above!)
Want to go deeper into your winter nutrition? Check out these articles to help you navigate your winter palate and plate:
- Eat This: 20 Foods That Fight the Winter Blues
- Everyday Health: 5 Fall and Winter Foods With Mood-Boosting Benefits
Adaptogens are plants and fungi that help our bodies adapt to stress, balance our nervous system, and support our adrenal glands. In terms of winter nutrition, adaptogens can help your body remain balanced through the seasonal changes by supporting a strong functioning system.
You can consume adaptogens in capsules, tinctures, teas, smoothies and foods, but they must be taken consistently over time. Here are the top 12 Adaptogens for Stress, according to Healthline.
Not sure where to start? Click here to check out some of the top culinary adaptogens and the best way to integrate them into your diet.
References & Resources
Culinary Nutrition: 16 Mood Boosting Foods
Culinary Nutrition: Culinary Adaptogens
Eat This: 20 Foods That Fight the Winter Blues
Everyday Health: 5 Fall and Winter Foods With Mood-Boosting Benefits
Healthline: Alter your diet, improve your mood