posted December 28, 2021
Winter is coming—actually, as of December 21st, it is already here. Besides tasting great and nourishing our body, fruits and vegetables influence appetite and mood. Research shows certain foods affect powerful mood-modifying brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are made from the foods we eat and are present in higher concentrations after meals. Serotonin is often released after eating whole grains and fruit. It is proven to enhance calmness, improve mood, and lessen depression. Dopamine and norepinephrine is often released after eating vegetables and legumes high in protein. These chemicals enhance mental concentration and alertness.
What Foods Should You Choose?
1. Fermented Foods
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods are good ways to improve your gut microbiome. These foods nourish the gut, the production site of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Nuts are powerhouses of energy and nutrients. Full of protein and heart-healthy fat, nuts add texture, taste, and a mouthful of antioxidants to any dish or snack. Sprinkle nuts on cereal, salads, or spread nut butter on whole grain bread and fruit.
3. Kiwifruit, Oranges, Broccoli, Potatoes, Peppers, and Berries
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of the winter mix, providing vitamin C, fiber, vitamin A, and a host of other antioxidants. Studies show that there may be little value in popping pills for antioxidants, but food sources are invaluable to your health. Each color provides different vitamins and minerals. Choose two or more cups of fruits and vegetables every day and be sure to include a variety of colors.
Every healthy eater’s dream come true, this cruciferous vegetable is home to nutrients known to prevent the common cold (antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber). Unlike other leafy greens, kale is high in carotenoids, potent antioxidants. If you’re looking for an easy way to get through flu season without getting sick, this winter vegetable is super beneficial. Don’t worry, all dark green leafy vegetables are instrumental in decreasing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Greens like collard, turnip, spinach, and mustard are also seasonally available.
This winter vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse and an excellent source of antioxidants: vitamin C, lutein, and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, a nutrient linked to a strong immune system.
This pungent bulb is high in vitamin C and anthocyanin, potent antioxidants that help you keep the flu at bay. Friendly tip: Stock your pantry with a dehydrated version, which is just as nutritious and tasty as the real deal—it’s already chopped, with no prep work!
This winter vegetable is packed with a variety of gut-friendly nutrients, including inulin, a potent prebiotic. Once inside your digestive system, the fiber improves your gut health and reduces your risk of coming down with the flu. Make sure you keep a batch of dehydrated leeks around and add them to your dishes every chance you get.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Chances are you’ve heard all about Brussels sprouts and how they taste. Over the years, these bite-sized orbs have received their fair share of bad press, but it’s time we change that! Get ready to rid yourself of those winter sniffles; between their high levels of antioxidants and ability to pair with any vegetable out there, Brussels sprouts are one of the healthiest and most versatile foods to hit your plate during the colder months.
9. Dark Chocolate
Choose chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids as they release endorphins that improve mood.
10. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower (and Brussels sprouts, noted above), are packed with the amino acid glutamine. Although glutamine is considered a non-essential amino acid, it actually becomes essential when our body is in a state of stress. Anxiety sends our body into a fight or flight mode. Combat these emotions by topping your favorite sandwich with at least one of these power-packed stress fighters!
Never forget our body is made up of up to 60% water. Dry air from indoor heating can make your throat, nose, and skin feel parched. Make sure to include adequate fluids throughout the day and consider adding minerals to give it an extra boost! Choose caffeine-free beverages such as water, herbal tea, 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
Inspired by Nouvelle Cuisine, Main Street Vegan Academy graduate, Kimberly Harper-Colucci, specializes in local, lighter, plant-based modern food. She celebrates comfort food with a nutritious, elegant twist. Growing up in a military family, Kimberly traveled internationally and developed a love for regional cuisine. She pursued a military career as a Critical Care Paramedic and Board-certified Patient Advocate specializing in Pulmonology and Critical Care.
While serving in the fire department, she received classical culinary training at Stratford University and dedicated herself to educating patients on the importance of nutrition and its health impacts. This led her to a plant-based lifestyle and plant-based chef certification. Kimberly helps others understand that healthy and delicious foods can be synonymous. She blends her extensive medical background with her passion for cooking as a personal chef, preparing tasty, nutritious meals for clients and catered events. You may find her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.