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Important Nutrients That Can Support Your Mental Health This Winter

If you have ever felt like your mood takes a turn for the worse in the grey months of winter, you’re not alone. Many people are affected by the decreased sunshine and the colder weather. Although you can’t control the daily weather, you can optimize your diet and include specific nutrients that have been proven to support mental health!

Iron

This mineral is essential to energy levels, immunity, and brain health. It is also one of the most difficult minerals to absorb from the diet, and many people are unknowingly deficient in iron. Women are at higher risk for iron deficiencies due to regular menstrual cycles. Vegetarians and vegans are also at elevated risk of low iron levels, and they may need to rely on a supplement to meet their daily requirements.

The best way to ensure you meet your daily iron requirements is to include a variety of iron-rich sources! Pick lean red meats twice a week, including kidney beans or black beans three times a week, and choose dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale regularly.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin! Your body will naturally create vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but if you live in the northern hemisphere, wearing short sleeves is not an option in the winter months.

Dairy products are often fortified with vitamin D as well as different types of bottled orange juice. Salmon and trout are rich in vitamin D, but if you don’t like eating fish your next best option will be to rely on a daily supplement. This vitamin will support your mental health, your immune function, and improve bone health.

Omega-3-Fatty Acids

Another reason to start loving fish is the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce inflammation in the body, promote excellent brain health, and support your mood and mental health.

You can satisfy your weekly omega-3 requirements by eating salmon, trout, mackerel, or herring twice a week. Potent vegetarian alternatives are walnuts, ground flax seeds, and chia seeds. These can easily be sprinkled onto your morning cereal or even added to a lunchtime salad.

Zinc

Whole wheat-based grain products naturally contain zinc. You only need a small amount of this mineral to satisfy your dietary needs. There is compelling evidence to suggest that zinc does contribute to the reduction of depression-like symptoms, which is great news! As well as whole grains, all dairy products will offer trace amounts of zinc.

As well as supporting your mental health, zinc is critical for your immune function, wound healing, and recovery, and early administration of a zinc-based lozenge can be effective in treating a sore throat.

It is not recommended to start a daily zinc supplement without direct instruction from your health care provider. Zinc can accumulate in the body and unnecessary supplementation can increase your risk for toxicity.

Folate

Folate is a type of B vitamin that is essential for the healthy development of cells in your body. This essential vitamin is also being studied because there is an early indication that people who suffer from depression tend to have lower levels of folate in the blood.

Food sources of folate include lentils and different types of beans. Dark vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage are all potent sources of folate. If you suspect that your folate levels are low, ask your physician for a blood requisition to get your levels tested. You may benefit from a supplement to help get your blood levels back up to normal and improve your mood!

Julia Zakrzewski

Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and a lifelong foodie. Her passions include eating great food, debunking nutrition myths, and educating people on how they can improve their health! Her specific interests include diabetes and cardiovascular health. In her spare time Julia teaches yoga, and walks her miniature schnauzer.

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