Useful foods in the change of seasons
What follows is the translation of the original Italian article by Paola Salgarelli, biologist nutritionist, specialist in Food Science:
We are in fall now and the change of seasons for many of us is problematic, because it can cause a sense of tiredness and various disturbs. Sometimes the cause is the post-vacation blues, the stress coming after holidays. One way to deal with the problems we face when we are back to work is determined by the choices we make about what we eat: many kind of foods contains substances which can help us relax and improve our mood.
First of all, we should not forget food rich in tryptophan, amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which can regulate mood, sleep-wake cycle and that favors relaxation and wellness. Dried fruit, some vegetables (zucchini, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms), dairy products, whole cereals, eggs and many kind of meats (turkey, chicken, bresaola) and fish (tuna, sole fish, codfish) are particularly rich in tryptophan. Among some other foods with lots of tryptophan we mention chocolate, which helps us to be in good mood but has to be eaten without exaggerating in quantity.
But be careful: in order to facilitate the conversion of tryptophan in serotonin it is important to increase also the consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables (grapes, figs, apples, pears, melons and peaches). This types of food are able to ease this process thanks to the content of simple sugars.
Other foods which can lower stress and give a boost to our good mood are those rich in omega-3, essential fatty acids involved in many beneficial actions inside our organism (in particular it is very popular their effects on the cardiovascular system). Recent studies have demonstrated that omega-3 are involved in the modulation of mood: they are able to accumulate in the proximity of the nerve synapsis and this mechanism is linked to a bigger production and release of serotonin. Bluefish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerels and fat fishes like salmons present high content of omega-3. For whom does not like fish, an alternative source of omega-3 is represented by dried fruit, by chia seeds or by flaxseeds. Flaxseeds have an enormous quantity of omega-3, so it has become one of the main source of this kind of fatty acid for vegetarians and vegans. A single spoon of flaxseed contains a quantity so high to cover the entire daily need.
Oats, too, has a high nutritional value, and can help us when we are back to work. This is especially true because it contains vitexin, a substance with a remarkable relaxing effect. Moreover, it has a low glycemic index: it means that can provide us energy slowly, avoiding blood sugar peaks.
In addition, minerals such as zinc (fish, red meat, cereals, legumes and dried fruit) and magnesium (green leaf vegetables, dried fruit, legumes, mushrooms, whole cereals and bananas) are important to protect us from tiredness, both physical and mental, and to regulate mood, helping us defeating post-vacation depression, anxiety and irritability. Bananas are the ideal fruit in this season, because it contains potassium and magnesium which help us recover vigor and wellness. Not to mention that this fruit is rich in chromium, mineral that regulates the production of serotonin.
But let’s talk about another negative aspect of the change of seasons, which is the lowering of the temperature: it is important to intake nutrients that can help us strengthen our immune defenses. For this reason, food that we should prefer are those rich in vitamin C, useful to protect our cells from oxidation, favor the intake of iron and increase the immune defenses. Many kind of foods are rich in this substance, non only citrus (which should not be forgotten in our autumnal diet), but also kiwi (that contains more that twice the quantity of vitamin C compared to oranges and grapefruits), pomegranates and vegetables of the cruciferous vegetables, just to name a few.
Some spices are precious for our immune system, too. Among the most useful we name red pepper (which added to dishes can increase the content of vitamin C), ginger and turmeric (which are helpful to boost our defenses, according to recent studies).
Food rich in sulfur are likewise important because this substance is able to hinder the bacterial growth. The cruciferous vegetables, again, are rich in sulfur, as much as garlic, onion and shallot.
In autumn food with beta-carotene can help us. This is a substance which is able to stimulate the growth and development of the immune system. In this season we can find it, for instance, in sweat potatoes, persimmons and in pumpkins.
Moreover, let’s not forget to intake probiotics (microorganisms which are able to help our organism in various ways), together with a sufficient quantity of prebiotics (substances that we cannot digest but can promote the growth and/or the activity of probiotics in our guts). In other words, prebiotics represent the nutrition of probiotics.
Probiotics are included in some types of yogurt and in less popular foods in the western cousin, like kefir, miso, tempeh, while prebiotics are included mainly in chicory, artichokes, onions, leek, topinambur, garlic, kiwi, oats and soy.
In this season an important role is played by mushrooms, because they are rich in selenium and beta-glucans, which are essential to activate white blood cells.
After the interesting overview that we made about the kind of food that can help us in this season, it is natural to think about the reality: it is not always easy to find all this food, mainly because sometimes we don’t have enough time. Moreover, our pace of work, more and more stressful, does not allow us to give enough time to lunch and/or dinner, which often are consumed in a hurry and therefore become unbalanced. Food like Bivo, consumed exactly in “difficult times”, allow us to have not only the right intake of calories and nutrients that should be included in a meal, but also to have many of the substances we have mentioned in the present article (substances that help us in the change of seasons). We have spoken about the importance of oats, which help us to relax and to provide us probiotics; about the role of flaxseeds for their high content fo omega-3, and the importance for good mood and wellness of immune system of substances like potassium, magnesium, zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamins of the B group. All of these components are included in the formula of Bivo.
Paola Salgarelli, Biologist Nutritionist, specialist in Food Science
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