This is my favorite time of year. I feel a sense of relief, the busy days of summer are over. It is time to come indoors, reflect on the past year and create a warm, comforting environment.
Not everyone shares my love of fall and winter- shorter/ darker days, less activity, less sun and the holidays right around the corner, many people experience low mood, weight gain/loss and disrupted sleep.
Guess what- nature has provided some great solutions.
I find it fascinating that the root vegetables are in season this time of year. Root vegetables like parsnips, beets, and sweet potatoes contain nutrient rich starches which help the body to produce its calming, anti-depressant neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Additionally, many of the root vegetables, like burdock root, are incredibly strong. Nothing will grow within 7 feet of this root. What an excellent food to eat as we come inside for winter- -Strong, grounding foods. **other cultures look at food, not just by its nutrient content, but also for it energetic properties**
Another fall/winter food which helps relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia are pumpkin seeds!
Pumpkin seeds are a powerhouse of protein, healthy fats and nutrients, like zinc. Not only will they help alleviate depression, they can help with high blood pressure and arthritis. Pumpkin seeds are high in tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin. Combined with high levels of zinc (zinc is a key component of neuronal brain health).
Hey–just for kicks, check out this journal article on Zinc and Alzheimer’s disease and then get back to me if you sre still not convinced about the importance of nutrition
Pumpkin seeds are pretty tasty way to boost serotonin, but if you need more convincing:
This time of year I start to crave warming foods and spices– chai or yogi tea anyone? What a perfect food for this time of year– these spices keep the blood moving and provide necessary antioxidants to prevent colds and flu.
Here are two of my favorite warming winter drinks.
From my Whole Foods Cooking Teacher, Cynthia Lair’s, book, Feeding The Whole Family (I highly recommend this book)
4 cups of water
10 whole cloves
12 whole cardamom pods
2 sicks of cinnamon
4 slices of fresh ginger, 1/4 inch thick
1 cup of milk – soy, goat, cow, rice, hemp
Maple syrup or raw honey to taste
Bring water, spices, and ginger root to a boil in a pot. Lower heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Add milk. Turn off heat and strain into mugs. Add sweetener if desired.
And here is a link to Mark’s Turmeric Tea: This is very good!
If you know you usually have trouble this time of year, stay proactive–now is the time to focus on prevention:
In my practice, for those who are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, I will make sure their vitamin D levels are measured and supplemented to the optimal health range, a light box (even in a temperate climate) is important, supplemental precursors to serotonin like Tryptophan and 5HTP, the B-vitamins in their bio-available forms (particularly B-6 and P-5-P and adaptogens (herbs that help with stress–who doesn’t need these?)- one of my favorites is rhodiola. During medical school in Seattle (very dark, short days and high stress), we commonly referred to rhodiola as “sunshine in a bottle”!
*Remember these are general recommendations. You should consult your practitioner for specific recommendations*
More info about nutrition and mental health, check out my previous blog
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