10 Foods and Nutrients To Beat the Winter Blues & Avoid Weight Gain

When you eat food, your gut breaks it down into separate nutrients and chemicals that get sent around your body to serve thousands of purposes. They all work together to keep your body moving, your heart beating and your brain functioning. One of their biggest roles is to help produce our happy hormones – and we could all do with more of these in winter!

The other bonus of all these foods is that they will all help with weight loss! if you cut out processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat, and replace them with these foods, you will be able to ward off those winter kilos.

This is why it’s important to eat a variety of healthy foods, to ensure you’re getting every nutrient required for every job in your body!

Here are some important nutrients and foods that your brain needs to help you feel happy:

Remember you need a variety of all of these foods every day!

1. Protein helps make your happy hormones.

After you have eaten foods high in protein, the protein is broken down into ‘little pieces’ that are sent around your body to do lots of jobs, including in your brain. Each ‘little piece’ has many important roles for brain function. Some of them help to make serotonin, your happy hormone. When your brain releases serotonin, you feel more positive emotions, and have better mood levels.

Where can I find lean protein? lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

2. Tryptophan turns into happy hormones

Tryptophan is one of the ‘little pieces’ that come from protein after your body has broken down your food. Tryptophan is actually converted into serotonin in your body. So basically any food containing tryptophan will give you a boost of happy hormones!

Where can I find tryptophan? chicken, turkey eggs, dairy products, fruit and nuts and seeds.

3. Folate assists in the production of happy hormones

Folate is a nutrient found in food. It is an assistant in the production process for serotonin. Along with a few other nutrient helpers, Folate helps tryptophan turn into serotonin. It is another key player in keeping you happy!

Where can I find folate? Leafy greens, oats, sunflower seeds, fortified breads and cereal, lentils, soybeans.

4. Vitamin B12 helps your brain function properly

Vitamin B12 is essential for brain function. Without it you can feel tired, lethargic, weak and have a low mood. Vitamin B12 is also needed to help folate do its job. Vitamin B12 will keep your brain functioning properly which will keep your mind and mood feeling good.

Where can I find vitamin B12? Lean beef, oysters, salmon, eggs, cottage cheese, yoghurt, milk and fortified cereals.


5. Omega-3 fatty acids improve overall happiness

Omega-3 fatty acids are super healthy fats. When our body breaks down and absorbs these fats from food, they travel up to our brains and interact with certain parts of the brain that affect our mood. It has been shown that people that eat higher amounts of foods containing omega-3’s have less depression and a better mood!

Where can I find omega-3? Salmon, Tuna, walnuts, flaxseed

6. Vitamin D, like the sunshine makes you feel happier

Vitamin D is commonly known as the ‘sun vitamin’ as your body needs to absorb sun rays to make it. Vitamin D has shown to play a role in mental wellbeing. Ten minutes in the sun is generally enough to get your daily dose of vitamin D, but on those cold days inside there are some foods you can eat that have small amounts.

What foods have vitamin D? fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and eggs.

7. Berries reduce stress causing hormones

Berries are jam packed with antioxidants which help to prevent your body from releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is the major stress hormone of the body. Eating berries will help reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, leaving you feeling more relaxed and at ease. The less you stress, the happier you’ll be.

What berries should I have? Any berries! Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries – fresh or frozen.

8. Reducing added sugars makes an overall happier you

Foods high in added sugars generally provide little nutritional value. Eating a high amount of sugar also spikes your blood sugar levels, which can lower your mood. It has been shown numerous times that people who mainly eat wholesome healthy foods have lower depression levels than people who eat lots of highly processed foods that are high in sugar. Too much sugar can also cause inflammation in your body and impair brain function, worsening your mood. Less sugar will make a happier you!

9. Cocoa improves mood

Cocoa comes from the seeds of the cacao tree and is used to make chocolate. Cocoa is high in a range of antioxidants which can help improve your mood. Dark chocolate contains high amounts of cocoa. Sorry to say folks, but this does not include chocolate cake, ice-cream or milk chocolate bars – these foods are high in sugar which will not help improve your mood.

Where can I find cocoa? Dark chocolate (one or two pieces is all you need) and unsweetened cacao powder (add it to a smoothie).

10. Bananas make you feel better

Bananas are high in tryptophan and vitamin B6, which help to keep you in a happier mood. Bananas are also high in potassium and magnesium, which help with stress and anxiety. Not to mention that they are sweet, delicious, filling and satisfying. We go bananas for bananas, they will help you feel nourished from the inside out.

Check out this week’s healthy recipe which is jam packed with foods and nutrients that help to keep you feeling happier.

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Serves: 4 Time: 50min Cost: $8 approx. ($1.33/serve)

• 1 cup of walnuts
• 2 cups oats
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 cup milk
• ½ cup natural or Greek yoghurt
• 1 large egg
• ¼ cup maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups blueberries
• 1 grated apple
• pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 1700C (fan-forced).
2. Spray baking dish with oil or rub with olive oil.
3. Whisk milk, yoghurt, oil, egg, maple syrup, vanilla.
4. Add roughly chop walnuts, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, mix.
5. Mix through blueberries and grated apple.
6. Place in baking dish and bake 40 – 45 mins.

Serve with yoghurt!

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