February is arguably the bleakest month of the year. The days are short, the nights are cold, and if you live in the northern hemisphere you’ve probably gotten slammed with some sort of precipitation. Yuck! This weather is enough to make you want to hibernate under the covers until April. Unfortunately, for most of us, this isn’t an option. We have to weather the cold, rain, snow, and wind until the first signs of spring give us the signal that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Sigh.
If winter has zapped your energy and you’ve found yourself lacking the motivation to complete your daily tasks, you may have a case of the “winter blues,” or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can dig yourself out of a mid-winter funk and keep your mood consistent throughout the year. Best of all, there’s no medication required. Everything you need aligns with your vegan meal plan! Here are some of our favorite vegan foods to beat the winter blues.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are key players in beating the winter blues. Tara Miller, a holistic nutritionist based in Toronto explains, “Many studies have shown their ability to reduce depression and depression symptoms, but they’re also really great for reducing inflammation, which is often related to getting sick.” Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are all good sources of omega-3s.
The carbohydrates, natural sugars, and potassium in bananas work together to help fuel your brain. Not to mention, bananas are high in magnesium – a mineral that has been proven to improve sleep and reduce anxiety, which are two symptoms of seasonal depression.
Ok, vitamin D isn’t exactly a food, but it’s important nonetheless. Vitamin D has been linked to increases in immunity and lowered depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t occur naturally in a vegan meal plan. You can get your daily dose from a supplement (25 micrograms per day) or from plant-based foods fortified with vitamin D, like soy, almond, hemp, and rice milk.
Avocados boast vitamin B, which helps promote white blood cell production to help fight infections. Don’t dig guacamole? You can also get B vitamins from Brazil nuts, which have a bonus of immunity and mood-boosting selenium. If you can’t squeeze enough vitamin B into your body through your vegan meal plan, you can always take a supplement to pick up the slack.
Leafy greens contain vitamin C, which is high in antioxidants, can increase your energy level and decrease anxiety. What’s not to love? You can get your daily dose from spinach, parsley, broccoli, and cauliflower. These veggies are typically easy to find at your farmers’ market or grocery store year round.
Stress can aggravate the symptoms of depression, and berries swoop in to save the day. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries can help prevent the release of cortisol, which, in stressful situations, heads towards the part of your brain that provides emotional responses. In other words, a berry-loaded smoothie may help you keep your cool when the going gets tough.