November is here, the clocks have gone back, and we are officially entering the cold winter months. To most of us this means tackling those winter blues and going into serious hibernation mode. Frida Harju-Westman, in-house nutritionist for health app Lifesum (www.lifesum.com) comments on the top 10 vegan foods to help us feeling energised and happy throughout the cold months and kick the winter blues once and for all.
A versatile ingredient, brown rice is a great food to have if you are running low on energy. It is rich in manganese, a mineral that helps your body produce energy from the carbs and protein that you consume, leaving you feeling energised for longer.
Bananas are great if you need an energy boost – even the likes of Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova have been seen munching on them. Bananas are made up from three different types of sugar (fructose, glucose, and sucrose) which get absorbed into your blood at different speeds, meaning that you will get a quick boost of energy and won’t suffer a slump as the sucrose will keep your blood levels steady.
Cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds are all great energy boosters and make for a perfect mid-afternoon snack. Nuts are rich in magnesium which is essential when it comes to converting sugars into energy, as well as protein for an extra boost. However, make sure to only have a handful at once as nuts are very calorific.
Chickpeas contain magnesium, which, like potassium, speeds up the message transmission between brain cells and relaxes blood vessels, helping to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. If you have time in the evening, make homemade hummus by blending chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and olive oil. You can then take your hummus into work and eat with carrots and celery (another brain-powering food).
Many of us are guilty of relying too heavily on coffee to get us through the day at work. Although coffee stimulates the mind and improves concentration, it is common to experience short bursts of energy followed by a sharp plunge. For those wanting to kick the coffee habit, green tea is a great alternative; it contains less caffeine than coffee but will still act as a mild stimulant whilst simultaneously improving your health due to the amount of antioxidants and flavonoids it contains. Remember that while it can seem cold, you need to drink lots of water; carry a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you are constantly hydrated.
Sweet potatoes, or the new avocado, are another food that can give you an energy boost throughout the day, as they contain plenty of vitamin B. The energy consumed from these potatoes is released slowly, meaning that you will not experience an energy slump in the afternoon and won’t feel bloated as sweet potato is easily digested.
Blueberries have been labelled a superfood due to their high levels of polyphenols, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds that positively impact the nervous system and brain function, helping to combat memory loss and enhance your mood. Polyphenols also have the potential to prevent the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Rich in iron, spinach is essential if you are craving an energy boost. A lack of iron in the body can decrease the oxygen flow to the brain, leaving you feeling fatigued. To avoid an energy slump, add some spinach to your lunch, or alternatively, if you aren’t a fan of salad, add a few spinach leaves to your morning smoothie.
One cup of fortified orange juice has more Vitamin D than a cup of fortified milk and is a great drink to have with your breakfast. However, make sure that your juice is freshly squeezed, as packaged juices can contain a lot of additives and sugar.
Avocados are renowned for having miraculous effects on the skin. They contain Omega-9 fats that repair damaged skin by reducing redness and irritation. The monosaturated fats hydrate your skin, leaving it feeling soft. Avocado helps protect your skin from signs of aging due to its antioxidant properties and high content of vitamin E which guards against photo-aging from sun exposure and vitamin C which helps your body produce elastin and collagen for maintaining skin’s elasticity. The Omega-3 also provides moisture and keeps your eyes looking shiny and bright. You will find that eating avocado will give you a lot of the nutrients that you need for awakening the skin and soul in the colder months.
Foods to avoid
Try to avoid foods that contain refined carbohydrates such as jacket potatoes, white bread and fast food because your body wastes energy digesting these foods, leaving you feeling sluggish and unhappy. In addition, foods containing refined sugar such as cakes and sweets will release insulin in the body, triggering an increase in the amino acid, tryptophan which is then used to create a signal substance called serotonin which tells your brain that you are feeling tired.
Lifesum (www.lifesum.com) is a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 20 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just live a healthier life, Lifesum shows how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.