Our connection to food is primal. Food is life; food is love. Food is not only essential to our very existence, but it also influences how we exist – our energy level, mood, creativity and even clarity of thinking. The body of research on food’s impact on mood is growing and we know specific foods/nutrients bring about changes in our brain structure (chemically and physiologically).
Choosing to prepare and eat nutritious whole food is one of the best ways to love yourself, your family, and your friends. While this is true year round, it is especially important during our long New England winters and during the holiday season when stress levels can run rampant, natural sunlight is low, and the temps are even lower. This is the time to pay close attention to the power of food and how you can use it to keep you happy, healthy, and at your best.
Here are a few tips to help beat the winter blues:
- Stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration can influence mood, energy levels and the ability to think clearly. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, such as herbal teas and soups and broths made from scratch with fresh vegetables.
- Get your omega 3. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) may help protect against depression by stabilizing mood. Aim for eating omega-3 rich foods 2-3 times a week.
- Make sure to get healthy protein from local poultry and red meat. The amino acid tryptophan (found in red meat and poultry) helps to create serotonin, which helps improve mood. When our tryptophan levels are low, we’re more prone to depression and anxiety. But be sure to eat whole-grain carbohydrates, such as brown rice or quinoa, along with your protein to ensure your body can properly absorb the tryptophan.
- Add asparagus, beans, peas, egg yolks, sunflower seeds, and spinach to your diet. These foods are rich in folate and vitamin B6. When you pair them with fish, poultry or meat (which all provide a healthy dose of vitamin B12), the B vitamins work together to keep your homocysteine levels low. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body, and high levels can be a predictor of depression.
- Spice up your life with Turmeric: This golden spice, commonly used in Indian cooking, contains curcumin. “Curcumin can enhances mood and there is evidence it can help against depression. Add it to soups and stews.
- Get your zzzz’s. Sleep restores and heals the body. Head to bed earlier on these dark winter nights. Most people do best with seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
- Take several deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out and relax. Incorporating deep breathing techniques into your day can be done anywhere, with any amount of time. Simple belly breaths can calm your nervous system and allow your mind to rest.
- Just move. Regular mild to moderate exercise for 30-45 minutes is a well-proven stress reliever and helps boost the immune system.
- Connect with your community. It’s tempting to want to hibernate as the days get darker earlier, but get out and attend an event, or join a group with like-minded people. Strengthen your relationships with your friends, family, and significant others. If you are feeling frustrated and run down, ask for help. Talking through problems helps put your everyday issues in perspective.
- It’s all right here…we are fortunate here in Rockingham County to have an abundance of good food choices at our fingertips. Check back at the Farm at Eastman’s Corner often for local healthy options!