Winter is often a time when nature reminds us to enjoy the quiet and prepare a foundation of rebirth. Few things do this as well as choosing wholesome, nourishing foods that warm the soul, soothe the immune system, and give us lasting strength. Here’s how to plan your menu.
What Are “Superfoods”?
Not a specific group like vegetables or dairy, this term refers to assorted foods packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients. The label of “superfood” is often used in marketing to tout health benefits, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the whole foods referenced this way are much more beneficial for us than, say, a cheeseburger and fries.
Live Science reports that superfoods:
- Provide antioxidants to help reduce the possibility of cancer.
- Have plenty of fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol, minimize the effects of diabetes, and aid proper digestion.
- Contain “good” fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help prevent health conditions such as heart disease.
- Also include phytochemicals, especially deep-colored fruits and vegetables, which are also essential to better overall health.
The goal for a nutrient-rich diet this winter is to eat a variety of whole foods that give your mind and body the fuel it needs to run properly. These superfoods also help many individuals better manage symptoms of mood disorders, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And they’re certainly at the core of helping people live more healthily after healing from eating disorders.
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley states that “a growing body of research is discovering that food doesn’t just affect our waistline but also our moods, emotions, and even longer-term conditions like depression. Which makes sense, after all. Our brains are physical entities, running on the energy that we put into our bodies, affected by shifts in our hormones, blood sugar levels, and many other biological processes.”
So what superfoods boost your winter wellness? Here’s what to add to your list.
Top Choices for Winter
The key to these foods optimizing your health is to include a wide variety for every meal. Will you necessarily want to mix blueberries and kale together? Maybe not! (But they’re great in a smoothie!)
- Aromatics and spices. Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, ginseng, miso, sage, and turmeric have numerous anti-inflammatory properties, which is good for both immune and joint health.
- Beans. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, beans provide ample amounts of plant-rich protein and fiber, and are low in fat—reasons anyone can benefit from and enjoy.
- Berries. Blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries—you really can’t overdue it with these luscious antioxidant fruits, and they’re tasty in so many wonderful ways.
- Broccoli. Chock full of vitamin C, zinc, and other nutrients, it’s a natural immune booster. Add red bell pepper—which has more vitamin C than an orange!—to this list.
- Fruit. Consider grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, oranges, papaya, pineapple, pomegranate, and watermelon to meet daily nutritional requirements and provide stability to immune health.
- Fatty fish. Their combination of omega 3-6-9 fatty acids really pack a punch when it comes to strengthening your immune system and protecting against potential health conditions. Think of mackerel, salmon, sardines, and certain other fatty fish.
- Greens. Bring on the collard greens, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and more! They all have numerous essential vitamins and minerals and are a perfect enhancement to any type of diet.
- Kefir or low-fat yogurt. These contain essential probiotics, which some believe help that stimulate the immune response.
- Mushrooms. Packed with antiviral properties, many forms of this fungi work well in soups, stews, and stir-fry recipes.
- Nuts and seeds. Just a few almonds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, peanuts (technically a legume), pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts serve up important minerals and healthy fats. If you’re minding calories, be choosy about portions.
- Pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that turns into vitamin A, isn’t only found in carrots. Plan a menu around these particular fall and winter vegetables at least a couple of times weekly.
Consider Reducing or Eliminating Certain Foods & Drinks
Additionally, if you want an enriching diet this winter, greatly reduce your intake of the following:
- Sugar, especially in fruit juice or soda
- Fat- and calorie-loaded treats, such as pastries and ice cream
- “Bad” or trans fats commonly found in processed foods
- Excess salt
- Fried food
Remember, everything can be enjoyed in moderation, once in a while. But your superfoods should anchor the majority of your intake each day.
Whole Person Health Is the Focus at Cottonwood
Within our behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment center just outside Tucson is a focused nutrition team that creates meals designed to nourish, heal, and promote positive wellness. Our professionals craft balanced, whole food dietary plans and nutrition education so our clients know what makes them feel good and operate each day at their best. This is just another way we commit to establishing your lifelong health.