Moving into the final stretch of winter, the days can often seem bleak and our bodies sluggish. The giddy anticipation of the holidays that kept things festive and upbeat is gone. We’re simply biding our time, waiting for the first signs of spring—and for the welcome burst of life and energy that comes along with it. In short, the end of winter is often a time when people feel genuinely ready for sunnier days.
Believe it or not, a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to fight the winter doldrums, so why not give your diet a little extra focus right now? Foods rich in B vitamins are definitely worth including. Whole grains, for instance, like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat, are both strengthening and soothing. They regulate the nervous system, nourish depleted cells, and provide clean-burning fuel for the body, without the energy highs and lows you get from refined grains (i.e., white rice or bread). Legumes such as green peas, baby limas, and soybeans (tofu too) are also versatile body-balancing foods.
Let colors be your guide. Orange foods like yam, winter squash, and paprika, for instance, are natural antidepressants. Red foods like chili, beet, and berries have a stimulating effect that can boost your energy, as well as your mood. On the other hand, green foods, like spinach, chard, and lettuce, are soothing, helping calm frayed nerves, strengthen the blood, and satisfy hungry cells—perfect for taking the edge off a stressful day.
In general, try to limit—or better yet, avoid—refined sugars, foods containing MSG and other unhealthy additives, alcohol, and caffeine. Drink lots of water, warm herbal teas, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Include uplifting fresh herbs like basil and rosemary. And make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids (my favorite source is pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and still warm from the oven). Bundle up and take a brisk walk after dinner. It will improve digestion and help you draw energy from your food.
Soothing and strengthening, this restorative recipe is quick and easy to make. The basil and rosemary help calm the mind and improve mental function. Miso and mineral-rich potato (the ultimate comfort food) help alleviate acid conditions in the body, while emerald chard brings a wealth of calcium and magnesium, as well as chlorophyll, a plant pigment concentrated with the sun’s healing energy. Potassium-rich apple cider vinegar is also an effective good-mood food.
Potato Chard Pick-Me-Up
- 31/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 cups chopped potato (1-2 potatoes)
- 1/2 cup shelled soybeans (edamame) or baby lima beans
- 3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce
- 1 cup chopped zucchini
- 2 cups thinly slivered green or red chard (2-3 large leaves)
- 3 tablespoons white or yellow miso
- 11/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Place the water, salt, potato, and beans in a 3-quart pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the potato is tender.
- Meanwhile, place the pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat and dry-toast for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to puff up and brown. Add the Braggs or soy sauce and stir for a few seconds until the seeds are dry. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- When the potato is just tender, add the zucchini and chard to the soup and simmer another 5 minutes until the chard is completely wilted. Remove from the heat.
- Ladle 1/3 cup of the broth into a small cup, add the miso, and combine until smooth. Add this to the soup along with the apple cider vinegar, basil, and rosemary. Add a little more salt to taste if necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the pumpkin seeds, and serve.
Potato variation: You can use yam or parsnip instead of potato.
More B vitamins: I’m a big fan of nutritional yeast, which, despite the unsavory name, is actually a delicious yellow, flaky or powdery seasoning that can be found in well-stocked health food stores. Add a tablespoon or two for more B vitamins and a richer, almost cheesier flavor.
Spice it up: If you want the soup to have some kick, add a minced fresh chili.
- Hands-on prep time: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 15 minutes
- Total time: 20 minutes
- Makes about 6 cups
Wai Lana is the popular host of long-running series Wai Lana Yoga, which airs nationally on PBS, the Wisdom Channel, and other networks. This recipe is from her book Wai Lana’s Favorite Soups.
For more information on Wai Lana and her products, visit wailana.com.