In Canada, we may be in the thick of winter, but there’s no way the cold is getting us down. Besides dressing for the weather, we’ve got our tricks to getting through the darkest days with a smile on our face and a spring in our step. How do we manage this wondrous feat? Just by watching what we eat. According to health experts, how you treat your body, and more specifically, what you put in it, is the key to getting through the longest season intact. So what should we be nourishing ourselves with exactly?
A survey of 1,500 Canucks undertaken by The Canadian Health Food Association reveals some of the best-kept secrets to beating the winter blues and keep you going strong. Want to stay in tip-top shape until spring warms us up? Here’s all you need to do.
FIGHT WINTER BLUES: 6 FOODS THAT WILL KEEP YOU STRONG
Could broccoli be Canada’s new winter super food? Yep. Broccoli and greens are clear favourites among Canadians choosing to stay healthy and happy during the winter months. Not only are they tasty, and easy to use in so many recipes, green foods like broccoli are full of health benefits. They are rich in pre-Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folate— nutrients that help our immune system fight infections over the course of a long winter season.
2. Take vitamin D
It is especially important to use a vitamin D supplement during the winter months because your skin needs UVB rays to produce vitamin D and there’s not much of that in winter. Plus, because we spend so much time indoors, way too many Canadians have insufficient levels. There are few natural, dietary sources of Vitamin D as well, including mackerel and mushrooms, but the actual amount varies, making it difficult to reach your daily recommended dosage of this vital nutrient. As a result, supplementing with vitamin D is almost universally recommended.
3. Try Omega-3 supplements
Omega-3s are a family of fatty acids that are essential to the structure and proper functioning of many of the body’s cells. They are found in especially high amounts in the brain, nerves and retina. Because the body cannot make Omega-3s efficiently, we must obtain them from our diet or from supplements. While the “sunshine vitamin” (vitamin D) and light therapy are known to help relieve the negative effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), omega-3 fatty acids — particularly DHA — have also been shown to support the maintenance of a more balanced mood.
4. Eat more fish
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and while it’s not the heartiest option for cold winter nights, its health benefits are perfect for getting through the season. Health Canada recommends Canadians should consume fish twice a week to meet their needs while other experts recommend having a serving of fish five times per week. But let’s be realistic. Do you really want to have a salmon fillet every day? If you’re a fan of shrimp, you would have to eat over ten pounds a day to obtain the recommended daily intake of Omega-3s (with no help to your cholesterol levels). This is where a fish oil supplement can really be a life-saver.
Third and fourth on Canadians’ preferred list of foods to combat the winter blues are yogurt and other fermented foods and milk. These are fantastic sources of probiotics and calcium. Calcium is the single-most inadequately consumed mineral among Canadians of all ages. More than 80 per cent of Canadians over 50, both male and female, reported inadequate intakes of calcium from their diet, according to a Health Canada report.
6. Consider a calcium supplement
Despite its health benefits, calcium is the single most inadequately consumed mineral among Canadians of all ages. While 99 per cent of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, it’s the other one per cent that is so important. Many people don’t realize that calcium is essential for regulating blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood clotting, ensuring a balanced body pH, and to thousands of enzyme and hormone reactions. With lower levels of vitamin D in the winter, we absorb less calcium from our diet, weakening our bones. Supplementation ensures we are getting the correct amounts of these important nutrients to maintain strong and healthy bones, and to support other essential body functions.
Is there anything special you eat that helps you beat the winter blues?