Winter blues are a very real phenomenon. The shorter days and lack of sunlight do in fact affect our energy levels, motivation to socialize, appetite, and food cravings. While there is no solitary cause of seasonal depression, we do know that there are foods that can help us keep our moods, appetites, and energy in check.
Below are a few of our favorite foods that help prevent us from hibernating in our pajamas and ordering takeout all winter long!
Spinach: Spinach and leafy greens contain folic acid, a crucial player in the formation of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that affects our mood and appetite. When levels of serotonin are higher, we feel generally happier and are more in control of our food cravings. Cooked spinach is also a great source of iron and vitamin C. Iron deficiency is common among women and can cause feelings of weakness and fatigue. We definitely don't need any added lethargy while it's hard enough to leave our beds during the winter!
Pumpkin seeds: These guys contain an amino acid called tryptophan, made famous by the Thanksgiving turkey coma. Tryptophan, along with the high content of magnesium in pumpkin seeds, help our bodies to relax and better cope with stress. Tryptophan is also a precursor to serotonin. Another benefit making these a great snack is that pumpkin seeds contain about 13 grams of protein per serving to help keep you full and energized.
Brazil Nuts: We are all about Brazil nuts because they are jam packed with nutrients. They are known for their high level of selenium. Selenium has a major role in regulating our thyroid gland where essential hormones are produced and distributed. These hormones are responsible for keeping our mood, appetite, and metabolism in check. We all can use these during the winter! These are also great for avoiding that dry winter skin because of their healthy fat and antioxidant content. Brazil nuts contain an antioxidant called glutathione which helps remove free radicals from the skin that can cause wrinkles. Because Brazil nuts are so energy and nutrient packed, you really only need 3-5 per day to get the benefits.
Dark Chocolate: Yep, dark chocolate does actually make you happy. The cacao in chocolate boosts the production of endorphins, those "feel good" chemicals in the brain that we also get from exercise. Fun fact: dark chocolate contains phynyltethylmanin, a compound that creates a similar brain wave to the feeling of being in love. So basically there's no reason for a boyfriend, right?
The flavanoids in dark chocolate increase blood flow to your brain to help boost memory and attention span. Sorry, but we are not giving the green light to have a Snickers bar every night. These benefits come from dark chocolate, preferably with 65% cacao or higher. Because chocolate contains high amounts of sugar, keep your portion sizes in check, 1-2 squares per day max. Note: If you are not a chocolate lover, no need to add it to your diet. Exercise will do the trick when it comes to boosting endorphins during the dark winter days.