Serving up “Sunshine!”

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With its shorter days and cooler (or biting cold!) temperatures, a winter of optimum health demands some changes in what we’re putting on our plates.

First of all, dwindling light means we’re not getting nearly as much natural vitamin D from the sun as we can in other seasons.  We count on vitamin D to help prevent cancer, bone fractures, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and even anxiety and depression, both of which can be triggered by those shorter days.  That lack of sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, potentially leading to lethargy and food cravings. 

While 10 minutes outside daily with the winter sun in its highest position will definitely be beneficial, consuming foods rich in D, like portabella mushrooms and almond milk, will also help boost vitamin D levels.

You can fight back with healthy carbohydrate-rich foods that can boost serotonin production, like sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and squash.

Another essential vitamin for a happy, healthy winter is C, which supports the immune system and adrenal glands.  Year round, but particularly in winter, reach for vitamin C-rich foods like yellow, red and green bell peppers, guava, kale, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, papaya and pineapple.

A big challenge during the winter can be a never-ending parade of sugary treats supplied by well-meaning friends and relatives.  Sugar overload crashes the immune system, leaving you much more vulnerable to winter’s colds and flu.  Factor in other risks, like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease – is a sweet “treat” worth the potential dangers?  Yes, those cookies, Yule logs, cakes, pies, candies and eggnog can seem tempting at first, but take a deep breath and take control. 

Maybe this is the season you start a brand new tradition – like bringing a tasty, crunchy kale salad to the family holiday dinner or office party.  Pomegranates are in season during the winter – introduce people to the exotic sweet-tart scarlet fruit that could quickly become a healthy favorite.

Another smart plan to help you stay on track during events where you know unhealthy foods will be offered is to eat before you go.  Whip up a tasty smoothie with a cup of plain almond milk, a handful of raw spinach, a peeled and frozen banana, 5 frozen strawberries and a teaspoon of chia or flax seeds.  Place all ingredients in your Vitamix or high-powered blender, and process until smooth.  The smoothie is tasty, filling, and packed with nutrients to fuel a fun holiday evening with friends and family.

Dehydrate both raw almonds and apples, and have some with you all season long for healthy, energy boosting snacking.

Experience the cleansing live, raw, organic vegan food at OHI missions in San Diego or Austin. Achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.