As the days start to get dark by seven in the evening and the winter chills start to set in, our hearts wander, our moods sing a melancholic tune and our taste buds long for steaming samosas, deep fried pakoras, parathas dripping with butter, a large cup of masala tea - Oh! And gulab jamuns with sugar syrup so wonderfully warm that it melts our hearts. All the previous winter's resolutions that we make - no more deep fried, only healthy food, no more weight gain next winters - are forgotten with the first winter chill.
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a kind of depression that is believed to be caused due to the changing seasons. The symptoms of SAD are pretty similar to other forms of depression - the feeling of hopelessness, withdrawal from social life, lack of concentration and fatigue - and these symptoms are what we usually call the Winter Blues, as the SAD kicks in right when winter arrives.
I hope knowing that it's not just you who gets affected by the change of season may relieve you a little bit. Having said that let me also tell you that there are treatments for SAD and these include medication, exercise, talk therapy, and eating a healthy diet. So say goodbye to those winter blues with a healthy diet.
Stress aggravates the symptoms of depression and exhausts your body. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries can help prevent the release of a hormone produced by the adrenal gland known as cortisol. When you go through stressful situations, cortisol heads towards a major portion of your brain which stores memories (known as the hippocampus), provides emotional responses and keeps your navigation senses intact. So keep some berries in your pocket or your bag to fight with stress when it hits.
Have a look at the back of your food labels you'll notice all different forms of sugar. They will appear in the form of syrups or words that end with'ose.'
Sure, sugar gives you a boost of happiness at first, but a research done at UCLA suggests that too much sugar content and too few Omega-3 Fatty Acids can actually change the working of your brain and slow it down. Such research on how the brain works are always going on and such discoveries are being made continually. So when the winter blues hit you try to limit your sugar intake and the drastic crash that you feel after a sugar high makes you feel much worse than before.
Hasn't chocolate always been our friend when we've felt down? It has always been a yummy and an effective way to self-medicate through times when we feel a little blue. Bit a big bar of Cadbury or a tub of chocolate ice cream though it sounds heavenly doesn't really cut the deal. Because, like I've mentioned above, too much sugar can cause an opposite effect.
In a study, the participants were given a drink mixed with dark chocolate every day for an entire month and the results showed significant changes in the mood of the participants. This improvement in the mood the researchers linked with the high content of polyphenol in the participants. Polyphenols are a form of antioxidants present in cocoa. So when you feel down or experience any other symptoms of SAD, pick up a bar of chocolate with the highest content of cocoa you can find.
Bananas contain tryptophan which has a calming and relaxing quality. Besides that, the natural sugars, carbohydrates, and potassium that bananas contain help in fueling your brain. Magnesium another essential mineral also found in bananas could be beneficial in improving your sleep and reducing anxiety - which are two major symptoms of seasonal depression. You can simply savor bananas or you can make a banana smoothie or you can chop up bananas along with other fruits (don't forget berries!) and make a nice and tasty anti-winter blues fruit salad for yourself!
A cup of tea ALWAYS helps me in relaxing my mind when stressed. When the temperature drops and takes your mood along with it, try having a warm cup of tea to lift up your spirits. No matter what tea you drink - black, white, green or oolong tea, be positive that you're receiving many health benefits. In recent years a large number of scientific studies have been taken place and published revealing the fact that tea contains potent antioxidants that may promote your heart health, assist in fighting some forms of neurological disorders, and even boost your metabolism. It has been proven that green tea relieves stress, and other herbal teas such as basil tea, cinnamon, peppermint and chamomile tea all are great stress relievers.
Vitamin D - also known as the 'sunshine vitamin' becomes important for you especially when your mood changes and so does the weather. Your body can make Vitamin D by absorbing natural sunshine and using cholesterol. Your mood can significantly improve with as little as ten minutes of exposure to direct sunlight. This is basically the reason why light therapy is an essential treatment for SAD.
No sunlight during cold and dark winter days? No problem. Your body can easily absorb vitamin D through food sources such milk, fish that have bones and egg yolk. Vitamin D is also available in the form of supplements.
Omega 3 fatty acids are very popular and are praised widely for their health benefits and one of its amazing health benefits is that it can influence your mood. A study discovered that people who had higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids were likely to experience fewer symptoms of depression.
Flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon are the richest food sources that contain the good levels of omega 3 fatty acids.
Now that we've taken care of your winter blues, let's tap into some super foods that you should have in winters. If you are determined to abide by your resolution to keep yourself in shape during winters then here are a few healthy food tips that will help you to maintain your summer body even during winters.
Yes, you can find oats all year long. But on cold winter mornings when you are too lazy to prepare a proper breakfast a warm bowl of oatmeal should be gladly welcome.
Oats will instantly fill you up and one cup of cooked oats has almost four grams of filling fiber and five grams of protein, and studies show that these are powerful weapons that help in building resistance against heart disease and diabetes, and improve digestion.
Oats are extremely healthy, easy to make early in the morning and great for weight management! This means that you don't have to worry about extra weight gain during winters - well, you don't have to worry about your breakfast at least.
Honey is another thing that you can find all year round in your home, is exceptionally good for your health and becomes all the more important in winters. But why does it become such a necessary item in winters? The credit goes to its amazing properties that fight viruses and infections that cause cold and cough (which is very common in winters) and its ability to keep your body warm.
If you have a habit of drinking a glass of warm water with lemon and honey in the mornings then don't abandon this habit in winters. And those who are unaware of the benefits of drinking warm water with honey and lemon let me give you a brief account of its health benefits.
It serves as a great detoxification drink, helps in easing your stress and anxiety, aids in digestion, wards off colds and flu, and the best of all helps you in losing weight. So what are you waiting for? Start now.
Also, honey is a great alternative to sugar - so if you think that your tea intake hikes from two cups a day to five or six cups a day in winters, try substituting honey with sugar with your teas.
How can I talk about lemons and not elaborate a bit upon the benefits of vitamin C? Citrus fruits or foods that are rich in vitamin C are good for your metabolism as well as your skin. Both of these need to be kept in check during winters - firstly, because your metabolism levels drop and you feel exceptionally lazy in winters and secondly, your skin needs as much nourishment as it can get because most of us go through the trouble of dry skin in winters. Therefore, a balanced intake of vitamin C is required in winters as well.
Seasonal fruits such as oranges, kiwis, tangerines (keenoo) and grapes are good sources of this essential vitamin. Fruits with Vitamin C also help your body to keep viruses at bay. So Juice them up or make a fruit salad, either way, make sure to include these fruits in your daily winter diet to keep your skin and metabolism healthy and ward off viruses.
Green leaves veggies like spinach are an ideal inclusion in your winter diet. Spinach is packed with antioxidants and has high amounts of vitamin A and C. Spinach is good for your skin and hair and apart from these vital Vitamins, it provides a proper amount of protein, iron, and minerals.
Other green veggies include cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli etc, these are also abundantly beneficial for your health, especially in winters. They help in improving your brain function, metabolism and boost energy.
Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beetroots, and potatoes are not merely nutritious but are also easily available during winters in their freshest forms. Veggies like carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is great for your skin and helps in fighting cold and other common infections.
So now you know what foods to eat to get rid of the winter blues and what foods help in keeping your stunning summer shape intact in winters. Don't worry, I won't leave you wondering how to include all these beneficial elements in your winter diet routine. Here are some tips.
It is always a heartbreaking task to leave your warm and cozy bed in the morning and hop into the shower. It is without a doubt my worst part of the day. You can start your day with a warm glass of honey and lemon water or a nice hot cup of herbal tea. There are a number of herbal teas available in the markets you can choose two and have them alternatively or you can keep an assorted pack of herbal teas at home, teas such as tulsi, ginger, cinnamon, hibiscus, lemongrass, lemon, and peppermint tea and start your day with a new tea each day!
When you kick start your day with a healthy beverage it makes it all the more important that you have a healthy breakfast. And by healthy I don't mean parathas dripping with butter, though, once in a while parathas won't hurt don't be too hard on yourself. Try having oats for breakfast, if you don't like the taste you can always enhance its bland taste by including some chopped strawberries, bananas, grapes or nuts. Other items that you can have for breakfast are steamed idlis, poha, maize fkoue cutlets (make ki tikki) or pearl millet cutlets (bajra ki tikki).
Dry fruits and fruits make great mid-day snacks. Shuffle your daily fruits, (oranges, kiwis, tangerines, & grapes) so that you don't get sick of eating the same fruit every day and can reap all the Vitamin C benefits along with keeping your body on guard from vicious viruses and common winter diseases.
Nibble on a handful of almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds (not too much on pistachios and cashew nuts).
After a light lunch and a tiresome day at work, coming home to a plate of chili potatoes or pakoras sure sounds tempting but nothing says 'winters' better than a big bowl of soup. Soups are yummy as well as healthy there's no reason why you would say no to a soul-satisfying bowl of soup. The kind of variety of soups (the pre-mix packets) available in the market will make it all the more interesting for you to look forward to having a new soup each day (just like your teas) and better yet, if you prefer making soups at home there still are many options that you can choose from, be it my all time favourite tomato soup, or hot and sour, mushroom, vegetable or chicken soup.
Drink as much water as you can. Keeping yourself hydrated is important all year round and especially in winters you tend to lessen your water intake at a considerable rate. The air around you is dry during winters, it extracts the moisture from your body leaving your skin dry and lips chapped.
Hi! I’m Gunjan, a self-proclaimed tea fanatic and intrigued with alternative ways to lead a healthy life. I firmly believe that we should take care of our bodies because it’s the only place we live in.