When the dark days of winter descend, it can be easy to indulge your junk food habit and embrace a more sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can affect your overall physical and mental health. But by focusing on nutritious foods that support a positive outlook and a healthy body, you can get through the winter without catching the winter blues–and all while staying within a reasonable budget. Read on for our must-eat foods for great mental health this winter.
Citrus. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, and other treats like satsumas and pomelos, are all in season during the winter months. Adding a slice of lemon to your morning glass of water can improve digestion, which means less pain and discomfort to stress you out. Enjoy citrus fruit sliced raw as an addition to any meal, or juice them for a bright pop of color that delivers vitamin C to boost your immune system and keep you feeling safe from the dreaded winter cold.
Complex Carbs. From oatmeal, to whole wheat pasta, to brown rice, complex carbohydrates can help your body produce serotonin, which regulates mood and helps you avoid depression. Be sure to balance your carbohydrates with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of protein sources for a balanced diet.
Sweet Potatoes. Packed with B vitamins folate and B6, cheerful looking sweet potatoes can be eaten roasted in salads or stews, or enjoyed baked whole with your favorite toppings. Choosing sweet potatoes can help you maintain steady levels of blood sugar to avoid sudden mood swings, while still giving your taste buds a sweet and comforting taste to enjoy.
Bone Broths and Soups. Using your leftover bones after roasting a turkey or chicken is not just an affordable way to make your own cooking stock, but it’s also an excellent food for improving mental health. Bone broths contain a number of beneficial nutrients, including the amino acid glycine, which can help alleviate anxiety, as well as brighten skin tone.
Lentils. For vegetarians, lentils are a great source of nutritious protein during the winter months. Lentil soups are inexpensive to make, and contain B vitamin folate, which helps boost mood, and actually may improve the body’s response to some anti-depression medications. Cook lentils in soups, loafs, or in homemade veggie burgers.
Bananas. Limiting your intake of refined sugar is always a good idea to improve mental health, and bananas are an awesome replacement if you’re craving a little sugar boost. Beyond their appealing sweet flavor, bananas are also a great source of potassium, which your body can run through quickly when you’re feeling stressed. Slice banana onto your morning bowl of oatmeal or cup of yogurt, or try sliced banana smeared in nut butter for a low cost, high protein afternoon snack instead of hitting up the vending machine.
Focusing on a healthy diet as your foundation is a great approach to keeping your spirits up and staying healthy this winter.
*Health conditions vary by person. Speak with your doctor about their recommendations.