Cacao is packed with antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols that support resilience, promote calm and have mood-boosting qualities. I love to make a cacao drink in the morning instead of coffee to boost the mood and flood the cells with energy and enthusiasm.
This may not be for you if you’re keeping going with Veganuary, but turkey, poultry and dairy contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which is a precursor to the “happiness” hormone serotonin. If possible, include some of these foods in your diet, especially if you get low and have insomnia in the darker months of the year. Quality is important, so make sure you get organic and grass-fed produce when possible.
It can be as easy as adding greek yoghurt to your morning granola or make a turkey wrap for lunch to keep your protein needs in check and serotonin levels optimum.
If you’re after more energy and especially after a bit of a “mental boost” this winter, this one is for you. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which supports brain activity, helps eliminate brain fog, helps gain clarity of thought and boost memory, as well as reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Sounds pretty good, right?
L-theanine is shown to increase neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin, which are responsible for happiness, calm and positivity. But since it contains caffeine, make sure you have your last green tea in the early afternoon.
Spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens
It’s not easy to find dark leafy greens in the middle of the winter without looking for imported products, but do your best with getting as local as possible and make sure that you at least get some spinach and kale in your week. Eating your greens is even more important in the winter when the availability of fresh nutritious produce is impaired.
Leafy greens contain B vitamin folate and its deficiency is linked with impaired serotonin and dopamine metabolism, hence affecting moods. Could it have something to do with SAD? Perhaps it’s part of the picture, so do make sure you get your greens in, even if you have to take the extra mile to get them.
Add your greens to salads (or side salads to a hot stew), make cacao smoothies with kale or spinach if you prefer to mask the taste or add them to an Indian curry. Whatever you do, make sure you get enough of these in the winter, to have the best chance of keeping resilient this winter.
Adaptogens are a type of plants and medicinal mushrooms, that are able to adapt to non-specific actions of the human body. What that means is that adaptogens are neither stimulants nor sedatives, but rather help boost energy when the body needs it and help calm the nervous system down when that’s needed.
Such include ashwagandha, Rhodiola, ginseng and medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, lions mane and cordyceps. Adaptogens do not taste particularly good themselves but are palatable when added to foods, such as morning porridge, coffee or cacao drink.
Adding adaptogens to your diet in the winter can support your overall wellbeing and keep you at a more even keel in the darker months.
Note on Coffee and Sugar
Don’t get fooled by coffee and sugar for the instant “feel good” and energy in the winter. Sadly, the effects are short-lived and only create a bigger crash after it, getting you stuck in the loop of “instant gratitude”. The trouble is that it only creates a bigger imbalance and the highs and lows are just too extreme, causing havoc and chaos in the body.
Opt-in for more balancing foods, slow-release carbohydrate, quality protein and lots of rainbow colour to keep you going this winter. I can assure you that you won’t regret it and your body will thank you for it!
I am not a doctor, medical professional or a dietician. The information I provide is based on my professional experience as a Nutritional Therapist, studies provided and on my personal experience. Any recommendations I may make about diet changes, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided to you on this website should be discussed between you and a medical or healthcare professional. The information you receive in these blogs does not take the place of professional medical advice.