Winter nutrition tips: Foods to boost energy levels, improve mood
If you are prone to winter blues and feel low on energy levels during the cold season, you may need to add the right foods to your winter diet to elevate your mood.
Winter season can make you lethargic with shorter hours of sunlight, bitter cold and an urge to remain curled up in your bed. If you too are prone to winter blues and feel low on energy levels or suffer from mood swings, you may need to add the right foods to your winter diet to increase your energy levels. Also, if you are having endless cups of tea and coffee to stay warm, you should instead add foods that warm you up from inside. Excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee combined with less intake of water can also make you dehydrated and even lead to constipation and skin dryness. (Also read: Nutritious foods to keep you warm this winter)
"Cold climate along with sudden rains during winters makes one feel inactive and crave for unhealthy food options at times, due to increased appetite. Early sunset, long dark hours and less exposure to bright sunlight lead to lower levels of serotonin, which is a hormone that affects appetite that leads to craving of having refined carbs and high calorie foods and next it affects the mood which leads to depression called as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) commonly known as winter depression. SAD is more evident during winters and ends soon after this season. SAD occurs due to less sunlight and symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal," says Vyuhitha Motupalli, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals , Electronic City – Bangalore.
One should avoid consuming processed, refined foods, sweets, high-fat products like butter, cheese and deep-fried foods in winter.
Motupalli suggests some ways to overcome the winter blues by maintaining healthy food habits.
Choose healthy complex carbs
Intake of complex carbs enhances the serotonin levels in the body. Hence try to include complex carbs like whole grains such as oats, broken wheat, red rice, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and millets such as ragi, jowar, bajra, and kodo.
Avoid refined and simple carbs
The intake of sugar, sweetened beverages, sweets, desserts, chocolates and all refined products such as maida, white bread, white rice cakes, cookies, pizza base, burger buns, momos, samosa must be kept minimum.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
During winter it’s important to include foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties because they have the ability to fight against infections like cold, cough, flu and viral infection which are common especially in children.
It helps to maintain serotonin levels and avoid depression caused due to winter blues. Daily exposure to sunlight for about 15-20 minutes and having vitamin D-fortified cereals, eggs, milk are essential sources of Vitamin D.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It has many health benefits, especially during winter. It helps to overcome winter blues and also protects against inflammation and diseases. Salmon, sardines, anchovies, DHA fortified eggs, avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are some of its sources.
It helps to boost immunity, thereby protecting against the viral infections. Sweet lime, lemon, orange, kiwi, guava, amla, strawberries, tomatoes etc are among its sources.
Zinc is a vital component of WBC which helps to fight against infections and Zinc deficiency leads to flu, cold and other viral infections which is common in children. It sources are meat and meat products, pumpkin seeds, beans and fortified cereals.
Adequate fruits and veggies
It is necessary to include diversified, colourful seasonal fruits and veggies in the daily diet, which helps to maintain the energy balance as they are rich in all the essential vitamins and minerals. Veggies which keep you warm and energised throughout the day are roots and tubers - radish, turnip, yam, colocasia, carrot, potato, beetroot and onions, garlic, ginger etc. Greens like spinach, amaranth, methi, drumstick leaves etc. are hot in nature, hence they provide warmth to the body. It is important to note that pregnant women with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) and diabetes patients should avoid intake of roots and tubers in the diet as they are high in starch and included on advice of a qualified nutritionist.
Fruits which keep you warm and energised throughout the day are pineapple, papaya, dates, apples and oranges that are hot in potency. Include 1-2 servings of them in daily diet.
Winter makes one feel less thirsty. In order to maintain body temperature and functions, it’s important to have 8 glasses of water per day. Apart from water other liquid foods options like soup, porridges, jeera water and especially teas like green tea, herbal tea, cinnamon tea, ginger tea, lemon tea, masala tea etc can be included. Due to the thermogenic properties they help to maintain our body warmth and stay well hydrated during winters.