One of the number one complaints I hear in my office at this time of year is about fatigue and lack of energy. There is something about the long Minnesota winters that just sap the energy out of people. So, if you are feeling this way, know that you aren’t alone. Fortunately, there are many cheap and easy foods that can boost your energy during the winter months. Some of my favorites are listed below:
Due to the lack of sunshine and lack of skin exposure to the sun during the winter months in Minnesota, most people will experience a drop in vitamin D levels. This is important, because unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions more like a hormone, and every cell in your body has a receptor for it. Deficiency in vitamin D can create feelings of fatigue, low energy or motivation, depression or sadness, getting sick often, back pain, and bone loss.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) is usually around 400–800 IU, but many doctors say you should get even more than that, especially if you live in a northern climate. Fortunately it is pretty easy to increase your daily levels of vitamin D by eating omega-3 fatty acids (like in salmon), egg yolks, mushrooms, and canned tuna, as well as vitamin D fortified milk and cereals. If these aren’t your favorite foods, then a vitamin D supplement is inexpensive and easy to find at any drug store.
Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium–both helpful in reducing feelings of stress and improving sleep. Try adding a banana to your breakfast to get healthy carbohydrates and a boost of B vitamins.
Sweet potatoes are a delicious and uber nutritious source of energy for the winter months. One medium-sized sweet potato has approximately 23 grams of carbohydrates, 3.8 grams of fiber, 28% of your daily recommended dose of manganese (which helps produce energy) and up to 438% of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin A! Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber and complex carbs, which means your body digests them at a slow pace, providing you with a steady supply of energy throughout the day.
Water is often overlooked as a way to improve energy levels. But water is absolutely essential to the functioning of your body. Water makes up 60% of your body weight and is involved in many cellular functions, including the production of energy. When people get dehydrated, the body’s normal functions start to slow down, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. Additionally, dehydration can lead to headaches and leg cramps. Avoid dehydration by drinking water throughout the day, even if you are not thirsty.
Green tea has numerous health benefits and is often touted as a superfood. Green tea is filled with antioxidants that lower oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Like coffee it also has caffeine, but because it also contains a compound called L-theanine, green tea is unlikely to cause the jitters and anxiety that many people report from drinking coffee. Research has shown that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine can also increase focus and concentration.
There are may other natural ways to boost energy in winter. It is also important to know if there are any other nutritional deficiencies are causing your winter blahs. If you feel unusually tired or depressed during the winter months, visit your doctor and ask for a blood test to test your levels of B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and your thyroid.