A drop in the thermostat may have you feeling a little more run down or sluggish than usual. Add to that the stress of just (barely) making it through a jam-packed holiday calendar, and you may be feeling as though you are running on empty at times. Before you reach for an energy drink or another cup of coffee, try these tasty foods to lift your mood and energy in the new year.
There’s no better comfort food for breakfast than a warm bowl of stick-to-your ribs oatmeal. The healthy carbohydrates in oatmeal help increase levels of serotonin, a mood-boosting brain chemical that can make you feel calm and happy. Oatmeal is also a good source of soluble fibre which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. When your blood sugar levels are stable, you’re less likely to feel irritable. Top oatmeal with a handful of almonds or walnuts, dried fruit or fresh or frozen berries and sprinkle with cinnamon for a tasty way to start your day.
As if you needed another reason to eat your vegetables, spinach is an excellent “pick-me-up” food. This versatile leafy green is packed with folic acid, an essential B vitamin that has been linked to the prevention of depression. Spinach is also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that exerts a relaxing effect on the body’s muscles and nerves, and may help you get a better night’s sleep. Toss spinach into a hearty bowl of vegetable soup, have a large spinach salad topped with chicken or grilled fish for lunch, or boost your intake by adding the greens to sandwiches, wraps and stir fries.
There’s no better catch than a tasty piece of salmon to get your spirits up in the middle of winter. Salmon is chock full of healthy omega-3 essential fats and vitamin D, two nutrients that can have a positive effect on your mood. In fact, including two to three servings of fish in your diet every week may help ward off feelings of sadness and anxiety, especially common during the dark winter months. Try wild salmon grilled, poached or baked for dinner with a side of steamed vegetables and brown rice.
Considered by many women to be the ultimate mood booster, chocolate contains a number of ingredients that may have a positive effect on brain chemistry. For example, the carbohydrates in chocolate may help boost serotonin levels, while its natural content of caffeine can act as a stimulant. However, be sure to watch your waistline when enjoying this once-in-awhile treat. Try a small piece of good quality dark chocolate after dinner and savour every bite. Or order a small hot chocolate made with skim milk to warm your body when the “winter blues” hit.