Bone-chilling cold. Long nights. And arctic blasts. Let’s face it: Winter can be depressing!
Some of us get a little down during winter. Sure, we could eat a gallon of ice cream. Or, reach for prescriptions drugs. But sugar will only add inches to your waistline. And antidepressants have serious side effects.
Here are 7 healthy foods — and drinks — to help you feel better, fast.
1. Wild Salmon
We all know the health benefits of eating fish. Wild salmon contains plenty of protein and is full of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and are good for your brain. One study showed that medical students who took omega-3 supplements had less stress.
So head for the fish market and load up your dinner plate with wild salmon.
Many doctors turn their noses up at coffee, but a lot of people (including me) refuse to give up their daily dose of java. Recent studies show that there’s no connection between coffee and cancer or cardiovascular disease. And coffee may actually help treat depression. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease and liver cancer. It also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.
So don’t feel bad about your daily cup — or two — of java. It will lift your spirits and may even protect against certain diseases. But if you do drink coffee, be careful not to drink the fancy coffee drinks. Some coffee drinks have up to 500 calories or 10 teaspoons of sugar. Reserve the fancy coffee for a special occasion. And keep your coffee black and without any cream or sugar.
Like wild salmon, flaxseeds contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids which lower inflammation and even protect against cardiovascular disease. Decreasing your consumption of unhealthy vegetable oils such as soy or corn and increasing your levels of omega-3s will help protect against disease. It will also protect you from depression. A study in China showed that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids were a risk factor for increased risk for suicide.
Try adding two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to yogurt or a smoothie every day. It will provide you with much-needed fatty acids. But unlike the high price tag that comes with wild salmon, flaxseeds are very inexpensive. Just make sure that you store it in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t go rancid.
If you eat more than 240 mcg of folate a day, you will lower your risk of developing depression by almost 80 percent, according to a 2012 study from Japanese researchers. Find 358 mcg of this B vitamin in one cup of cooked lentils. For more folate, try asparagus or chickpeas! There is 134 mcg of folate in a half-cup of cooked asparagus, or 161 mcg in a cup of canned chickpeas. For a delicious way to add folate to your diet, try making this red lentil chili that’s really easy to make!
Mashed potatoes are a favorite comfort food of many people. After all, they’re rich and creamy. But over the last decade, potatoes have gotten a bad rap in the diet world. Can potatoes be healthy? Yes, but be careful with the toppings and portion sizes.
A medium potato meets two percent of daily calcium needs, 51 percent vitamin C, 9 percent iron, 30 percent vitamin B-6, 12 percent magnesium and 25 percent of your daily potassium needs. Potatoes also provide phosphorus, niacin, folate, choline and zinc.
If potatoes were previously forbidden in your diet, don’t be afraid of eating them again! They’re great for helping to boost your mood because brain function largely depends on glucose level, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B. Potatoes meet all the needs mentioned above. In addition, they also contain certain other substances like zinc and phosphorus, which are good for the brain, too.
Walnuts not only look like a brain, but they are also very healthy brain food! Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. One study showed that eating just four walnuts a day significantly lowers your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. And another study found that consuming high-antioxidant foods like walnuts “can decrease the enhanced vulnerability to oxidative stress that occurs in aging,” “increase health span” and “enhance cognitive and motor function in aging.”
But don’t eat too many of these nuts that have plenty of fat and calories. Just a small handful a day is all that you need to get the benefits of these healthy nuts.
7. Dark Chocolate
If you need some encouragement to eat chocolate (and I know you don’t), dark chocolate may help may help when you’re feeling blue. Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called resveratrol, which is also found in red wine. Resveratrol boosts endorphins and increases your serotonin, which will improve your mood. Several recent studies show that chocolate, specifically the cocoa, helps your brain function. So have that cup of cocoa during the cold winter months. It will warm you up and boost your mood!
Don’t let a bad mood get the best of you during the long winter months. Try one of these healthy feel-good foods instead. They’ll boost your mood quickly and might even protect you from disease. Even better, no prescription is required!
What is your favorite feel-good food? Share your thoughts in the comments section below: