Ah winter! As temperatures plummet it’s tempting to indulge your inner bear and crawl into your cave, stocking up fat layers and sleep for months. In order to avoid meeting spring as grumpy and out-of-condition, here are some human winter-survival essentials:
Get outside every day
Winter sunshine doesn’t just feel great, it tunes up your brain. When the brain detects natural light, melatonin is inhibited, making you more energetic during the day, and enabling a better night’s sleep, re-setting the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Fresh air and mild exercise will also boost endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers) and serotonin (feel good neurotransmitters). Even just 10 minutes in the sun will substantially boost your mood! All that sun and exercise will also allow your body to produce more Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, and reduce your likelihood of developing the dreaded flu.
Being socially isolated puts you at far greater risk for depression. Recent research suggests that loneliness can be as great a health risk as smoking and obesity. We humans have an intrinsic need to connect with others. Rather than staying at home tonight because it’s freezing cold, pop around to a friend’s place for a cuppa, or head into town and hear some live music, or accept that social invitation. As my Grandma said, ‘No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up’.
Fit your diet to the season
Don’t feel like salad? It’s OK. Food is far more than a plate of nutrients, and winter may not be the best time to start a raw food/juice regime. Comfort food doesn’t need to be unhealthy, and eating seasonally encourages us to tune into Nature’s cycles and those of our own body. Winter is the realm of the nutty, earthy root vegetable. Love potatoes? Eat them! Roast them, mash them or bake them!
Who could say no to maple and walnut roasted pumpkin? Fill up on stews, casseroles and hearty soups. Think back to ‘root cellar’ days. Dried beans and legumes in the pot for protein and fibre, sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, potato, pumpkin and carrot for vitamins, a ham bone or beef shin for minerals and flavour, winter herbs for that extra zest. Thicken things up with starches like rice, barley, buckwheat and oats. Serve sautéed silver beet or brussel sprouts with garlic and a knob of butter as a side. Try your hand at making crusty sourdough to mop up the flavourful gravy.
Real people need real food, avoid the processed stuff. And don’t forget that how we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat with family or friends at a dining table, rather than in front of the TV. Light a candle and put on a nice tablecloth, enjoy flavours and textures and good company!
Catherine Lockley is an associate member of the NAA & a student of food and nutrition program at CSU.
By Catherine Lockley