When the weather gets colder, it makes sense that we crave a warm bowl of chili or soup instead of a cold salad—but it’s not just because these foods make us feel cozier. Our bodies are telling us what we need to eat in the winter, when there’s less sun exposure, the air gets colder and drier, and we’re more prone to getting sick.
“Some people are very affected by the longer days, waking up in the dark in the morning and feeling more fatigued or depressed than usual,” says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Fairfax.
Eating particular types of foods, Omar says, can help us stay energized and healthy through the winter. Read on for the ingredients to look for, plus a few of our favorite recipes.
1) In-Season Produce
It’s especially important to be eating with the seasons, Omar says. “Winter foods contain natural immune-boosting nutrients,” she says, which is important during cold and flu season. That means lots of winter squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and fruits such as pears, apples, and citrus—all of which contain vitamins B and C and magnesium. Pomegranate seeds, another winter favorite, are also good for your heart.
2) Complex Carbohydrates
It’s normal to crave carbs in the winter because they boost levels of serotonin, a mood-lifter, says Omar. But instead of reaching for baked goods or a plate of pasta, opt instead for complex carbs, which give you energy and keep you fuller longer. You might stock up on legumes and whole grains such as rye and quinoa, and swap out white pasta for whole-grain or bean pastas, which offer more fiber and protein.
3) Vitamin D Foods
Less sun exposure also means a decrease in vitamin D, which affects both mood and immunity. Egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified foods are all solid sources of the nutrient.
4) Omega-3 Fats
Foods such as salmon, other fatty fish, and walnuts contain essential omega-3 fats, also help stabilize mood swings. Other options include flax, chia, and hemp seeds—try throwing them into a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal in the mornings, Omar says. Another plus: Omega-3s moisturize skin, which tends to dry out in the winter.