In these dark winter months, we can tend to feel a little down. A lack of sunlight, and the vitamin D that goes with it, can affect our mood. December 21, the winter solstice, may be the shortest day of the year, but it’s also the day after which everything begins to get brighter. To welcome the sun, embrace foods that celebrate the triumph of nature—which, even in wintertime, offers up a bounty of mood-boosting foods for a winter solstice celebration.
A lack of vitamin D can manifest in symptoms that are like those associated with depression. And in winter’s darkest months, when we don’t have as much opportunity to absorb it from sunlight, we can find vitamin D deliciously in yogurt, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fish.
Other helpful foods include beans and leafy greens, which are high in folate, thought to have benefits for those with depression. And tryptophan—found in bananas, turkey, and chocolate—is used by the body to make serotonin, which can affect mood in a positive way.
These ingredients are not only mood boosting but also delicious—and can be made into warm and comforting meals to ease the cold of winter.
These six nature-inspired recipes full of mood-boosting benefits will help you celebrate the darkest night of the year and welcome the bright days to come.
This homage to the sun plays out visually as well as nutritionally. To celebrate the return of the vitamin D-giving sun, this dish of eggs, spinach, and yogurt with a hint of spice is a vitamin D party on a plate. A single serving of these eggs contains 12 g of protein and more than 70 percent of the RDA of vitamin D. Taking inspiration from the Turkish egg dish çilbir, the creamy yogurt is drizzled with a little bit of olive oil that’s been flavoured with chili flakes and sweet paprika. Lay out components separately and then mix them up to savour the creamy texture and delicious smoky flavour.
In Japan, it’s a custom to eat kabocha squash on the day of the winter solstice as a symbol of good health. In fact, kabocha squash contains cancer-fighting antioxidants such as beta carotene and lutein. It’s also full of fibre and vitamins A and C. We’ve made a roasted version dressed in a sweet and tangy marinade that’s sprinkled with sesame seeds before roasting in the oven. The remaining marinade, full of ginger, tamari, and red pepper flakes, is used as a dressing to further flavour the squash.
Escarole is a bitter green that stands up to heat and is suitable for grilling, braising, or using in soups. In this salad, it’s broiled with radishes before being dressed in a sweet, garlicky dressing that cuts the bitterness. Escarole is high in folate (vitamin B9), important in red blood cell formation, and vitamin A, important in immune function and eye health. Like kale and other cruciferous vegetables, it’s also very high in vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting.
Up your omega-3 intake with these easy-to-make salmon parchment pockets. The sockeye fillets are first rubbed with a marinade of juniper berries, citrus zest, and garlic before being enclosed in parchment. Juniper has a strong and piney flavour and lends a unique tang to this dish. It also contains antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Be sure to capture the juices that arise during steaming.
A tribute to the bounty and beauty of nature, this chocolate bark is studded with nuts, seeds, and berries and flavoured with the warming spices of ginger and cinnamon. Adding sweet paprika and chili also gives an interesting kick to a winter favourite. Cut back on the red pepper flakes if you prefer a less spicy version. Chocolate contains tryptophan—an essential amino acid—that helps our brain produce serotonin. Eating chocolate is a delicious way to get a mood boost, which can help lift our spirits when sunlight levels are low.