How To Beat The Winter Blues (With Food)

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If you’re feeling over winter and the low moods that come with it, despair not—spring is just around the corner. In the interim, here are our recommendations for eating to beat the winter blues. 

The Why

Did you know there’s a connection between what you eat and the neurotransmitters that release serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are chemicals that impact your mood? That means we actually can eat to feel better. 

Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin, which “enhances calmness, improves mood, and lessens depression,” while eating protein releases dopamine and norepinephrine, which “enhance mental concentration and alertness.” (See: Cleveland Clinic). 

In addition to causing seasonal depression and low energy, the cold weather also increases your likelihood of getting sick with a cold, the flu, or other respiratory illnesses (see: John Hopkins Medicine). Therefore, keeping your immune system strong and well-supported is extra important during the winter months. Food can aid in this mission as well!

The How

This likely won’t come as a surprise, but opt for whole foods like fruits, veggies, fiber-rich whole grains and carbohydrates, and lean proteins over highly processed and refined grains, sugars, oils, and red meat. (See: Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School). While this is a good practice year-round, it’s especially important during months with higher likelihood of depression and weakened immune systems.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy warm, hearty, and comforting meals. In fact, hot soups, rice bowls, (whole wheat) pasta dishes, etc. are perfect for pairing high-fiber carbohydrates with lean proteins like tofu, tempeh, legumes, and seafood and loading up on veggies to trigger the release of those cool neurotransmitters.  

To boost immunity, eat foods rich in vitamin c like citrus, berries, cruciferous veggies, tomatoes, and potatoes daily (see: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health). 

Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi and probiotic-rich yogurts (bonus points for dairy-free, unsweetened yogurts but you get the probiotic benefits either way) will help support a healthy gut microbiota, which impacts your immunity as well.  

Dark, leafy, green veggies like spinach and kale, dark chocolate, and seafood high in B12 and omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna, have been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and release endorphins to improve mood. Try a dinner of roasted salmon with a honey citrus glaze and sautéed greens on the side, with dark chocolate for dessert.

Finally, keep up your hydration throughout the day to combat the dryness of cold winter temps and indoor heating systems. 

The Where

Try out some new recipes at home to increase your consumption of the foods recommended above. We love Laura Wright’s The First Mess for warm, comforting veggie stews and legume-heavy dishes and @kat_can_cook on Instagram for hearty and satisfying salads. 

When choosing restaurants, opt for places with plant-forward menus or a focus on seasonal fare. If you aren’t in charge of choosing the restaurant, add extra veggie sides to your order. 

When you don’t feel like cooking or venturing out in the cold, order meals and tonics from us here at Vegetable + Butcher because this kind of cooking and eating is what we do best.