It is still winter in these parts, and while we aren't ones to dog the season entirely (we do love a good snow storm!), the gray skies, cold days and colder nights are starting to take their toll. We asked our friends at Prescribe Nutrition for tips on how to brighten our attitudes (and skin) during the winter doldrums - when they suggested starting with ingredients from our own kitchen, we were, of course, all ears!
As winter continues to rear its head throughout much of the country, we could not think of a better time to talk about the power of food in combatting winter blues. Sure we could have started the season with these tips, but let’s be honest - once the snow falls and the temps drop, we prefer to pull out our favorite cozy sweater, light the fire and use the cold as an excuse to hunker down. But at 90 days in, the charm is waning and we are feeling a little over it.
It’s time to pull out the stops and get real about how to cope with the last month (or two) of these colder, gray days. While we won’t get into the entire physiology of seasonal blues, it doesn’t take much convincing to understand that reduced sunlight (no matter what climate you might be in) can alter not only our vitamin D levels, but our overall brain chemistry as well. Today we are sharing or tried and true nutritional methods that aid in calming the effects of winter blues.
- Since vitamin D exposure is slim during the winter months, our top advice is to sneak that in when and where you can. Where to find it? The sea! Get in some cold water fish: salmon, tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, fish oils (such as cod liver oil). Additionally, farm fresh, pastured eggs, specifically the yolks, are some of the richest sources of vitamin D. Be sure to eat the entire egg though, we love the whole package!
- Low levels of omega-3’s are known to be correlated with depleted serotonin (our happy neurotransmitters) levels. Great sources of these (hint: here's a few 2 for 1 for our vitamin D-lacking friends) are oily, fatty fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, anchovies). In addition you can get some killer omegas in flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, and dark leafy greens including: kale, spinach and swiss chard. One cup gives you 56 percent of your daily value, so eat 2 cups to get over the hump. Bingo!
- Carbs. Ok, wait for it. You know full well that when feeling down, carbohydrates can be the first thing we reach for. Why? Well because carbs temporarily increase serotonin levels. Sugar fires up the brain just like a drug. But, what happens when the ‘fake happy’ wears off? Usually an even worse state sets in. So, it’s really important to choose those carbs wisely, because if done right, they can do wonders. We say veggie it up! Eat those bad boys like it’s your job. Think broccoli, asparagus, kale, chard, winter squash and sweet potatoes (whole grains and legumes are fantastic carbohydrate sources as well)! Brown, black, and red rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and teff are delicious gluten-free grains. Then comes our fiber-rich, phytonutrient-rich legumes. And finally get yourself some dark berries: blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries are filled with phytonutrients. The richer the color, the more “medicine” you'll get!
As you search for recipes or scope out menu offerings in the coming month(s), keep your eyes peeled for ingredients that boost your mood and fuel your body - so you can tell old man winter who really is boss.
Here’s one of our favorite, super simple recipes that include vitamin D, omega 3s and and a good dose of healthy carbs!
GRILLED SALMON WITH LEMON & TURMERIC
INGREDIENTS (2 Servings)
2 Japanese sweet potatoes (or any sweet potato)
2 - ½ pound pieces of wild salmon
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Pierce sweet potatoes several times with a fork or paring knife. Place in the oven directly on the rack (over aluminum foil in the bottom of oven to catch any drippings). Roast for approximately 25 - 35 minutes. Time will depend on the size - you want the skin crispy, the flesh soft and juices to be oozing out of the pierce marks.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, mix the lemon zest and juice, ground turmeric, sea salt and pepper. Season salmon on both sides with the mix.
3. Remove potatoes when done and crank heat to 425.
4. Place salmon in a baking dish drizzled with olive oil. Bake the salmon uncovered - timing will be dependent on the thickness of your salmon. 4-6 minutes per half-inch thickness of salmon, as determined by the thickest part of the salmon fillet. When the salmon flakes easily with a fork, it’s ready.
5. Serve the salmon with the sweet potato drizzled with additional lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. Enjoy!
p.s. Our antioxidant smoothie is filled with mood boosting ingredients and constantly on our rotation (in every season).