Byline: Jackie Olson
With short days and dreary weather, wintertime can take a toll on Missourians’ eating habits. Holiday binging, comfort food, and cravings might be impacting your overall health more than you think. Here are some winter warnings and tips to keep you jolly throughout the year.
Shorter winter days mean less sunlight and a slowed production of serotonin, which can trigger depression and food cravings. According to Psychology Today, healthy carbs (other than fruit), such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and squash can help bring serotonin levels up by increasing tryptophan in the blood stream. Additionally, vitamin C can encourage the production of serotonin and aid your immune system, helping you stay healthy during cold and flu season. The National Institute of Health recommends foods such as citrus, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, and spinach to help boost your immune system while sickness is in the air.
Although many Missourians may overindulge in comfort foods over the holiday season, high-calorie diets can actually decrease immune function and overall wellness. Specifically, in the New England Journal of Medicine, Jeffrey S. Flier suggests that caloric intake influences how animals age, and if they experience the onset of associated diseases—and it’s suggested that this might be indicative of high caloric intakes in humans as well. With that in mind, eating well and mindfully is always important—even in the depths of winter. Therefore, try to avoid fatty foods at the next holiday party by contributing one or two healthy dishes to the spread, guaranteeing at least one healthy option you can snack on responsibly. If you need inspiration, the MU Extension has compiled a robust list of suggested healthy holiday recipes. For further winter recipe suggestions, check out the Extension’s tips on using fresh herbs to spice up seasonal dishes, which can be grown inside and kept fresh year-round.
Though the price of greens goes up over the winter, it is still important to incorporate them into your diet. Try frozen vegetables to keep greens on your plate and your budget in check. The U.S. National Library of Medicine concludes that if vegetables are frozen right after being harvested, they will still contain their nutrients. Try to go for vegetables without added salt, and don’t overcook any vegetable. Instead, lightly steam them to retain vitamins and nutrients. Fresh and canned produce local to Missouri can be found at the Columbia Winter Farmers Market, open Saturdays from 9 am through noon until March 12. If you aren’t close to Columbia, there are over 140 other seasonal farmers markets located in Missouri. Can’t make it to a farmers market, or sticking to a tight budget? No problem! At the grocery store, winter fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, cranberries, citrus fruits, grapes, and root vegetables will remain cost-efficient even as the produce aisle experiences its seasonal price hike.
With these tips and tricks, you are just a few steps away from your healthiest winter yet. For more ideas, check out the list of health resources and discounts provided by the System for faculty and staff.
Byline: Jackie Olson is the Communications Intern in the University Relations department.
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