|Salmon salad is a delicious, healthy, feel good food. source
“Luckily for the carb-conscious, there are a host of wonderful options for getting through the winter season not just with less flab on your hips, but also with more spunk in your steps.“
Natural ingredients in a host of tasty low-carb foods can help fight the winter blues many people experience while also providing tons of energy and a wealth of nutritional benefits (source).
Fatty acids are your friends. Healthy fats, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, help your brain function better. Getting plenty of salmon, tuna, beans, and walnuts can help give you the boost of Omega-3s you need, while poultry, eggs, and vegetable oils can supply plenty of Omega-6s. These healthy sources of fat can not only keep your hunger satisfied, but they can improve your mood and mental acuity.
Amino acids – preferably not from energy drinks – can function as neurotransmitters in your brain, telling your brain to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. These two compounds help you feel motivated and content. Foods that naturally contain the amino acids tryptophan and phenylalanine may work the best, so use this as an excuse to eat more turkey than stuffing at Thanksgiving! Turkey, eggs, and lean red meats contain tryptophan, and phenylalanine can be found naturally in soybean and meat proteins, dairy products, eggs, and seeds.
Get your vitamins! Vitamins B, C, and D are essential for brain health and a positive winter attitude, as they help bring the important fatty acids and other essential neurotransmitters to your brain. Take a multi-vitamin or get plenty of natural vitamins from fortified milk, green leafy vegetables, red meat, shrimp, eggs, and an occasional slice of grapefruit.
Those of you who can squeeze in a few carbohydrates per day should opt for complex carbs, such as whole grain breads or cereals, brown rice, legumes (think hummus, butter beans, and lentils), or starchy vegetables (carrots and squash are two options with low glycemic indexes but tons of valuable nutrients). Carbohydrates are essential in any diet in moderate amounts because they are required for your brain to keep running. They help your brain take advantage of the wonderful boosts of serotonin and other feel-good chemicals triggered by the amino acids and fatty acids you get from the rest of your diet. Just avoid refined or processed sugar sources or white bread products, as these can cause a spike in blood glucose levels that will only leave you feeling depleted of energy. Complex carbohydrates give your body and brain a slow and steady infusion of energy, making the holidays easier for you when you have 57 guests at your house and must figure out a way to feed, lodge, and converse with them all simultaneously.
“Just avoid refined or processed sugar sources or white bread products, as these can cause a spike in blood glucose levels that will only leave you feeling depleted of energy.”
Low-carb sources of magnesium, selenium, and zinc may also help boost your mood and energy levels by feeding your brain important minerals for fast, effective function and signaling it to release chemicals that help you focus and stay positive. Nuts, seeds, green vegetables, and fish are the best sources of these key nutrients. At least this way, you can rationalize having a few chocolate-covered almonds if you absolutely must…
Last but not least, remember to drink up! Not eggnog and brandy, of course, but good old H2O. When you feel irritable, distracted, or sluggish, a glass of water can be just what you need to remind you of the beauty of the holiday season (or at least the temporary nature of it!) by providing your brain with the fluid it needs to function properly. The dry winter weather can make dehydration a common problem, so making sure you sip on several glasses everyday can help you stay positive, focused, energetic, and alert.
All in all, moderate amounts of healthy and complex carbs can play an important role in keeping you calm and collected, but tons of low-carb foods can pack serious mood-boosters, energy surges, and all sorts of other benefits with potentially catchy electric analogies.
So just remember: before you reach for a slice of fruitcake, think of how much better you will feel (really, truly, legitimately, and biologically!) this winter if instead you snack on a spinach salad with salmon, sunflower seeds, shredded carrots, chickpeas, a hard-boiled egg, grapefruit-and-olive-oil vinaigrette, and a glass of milk. I’ve made t
his salad-for-fruitcake substitution idea my new wintertime mantra – it’s long, but it’s darn well going to make me happy!
How are you fighting those winter blues and lack of daylight? Share below!