Nutrition / Vitamins & Supplements

6 Energy-Boosting Foods for the Winter

Nutrition experts recommended energy-boosting foods you should reach for this time of year.

Has the cold weather got you feeling a little…lackluster, to say the least? It’s not in your head—and likely not the result of some strange illness or condition. It’s actually perfectly normal to feel a dip in energy levels during the winter months. This is due to a cascade of events and influences that are more common during the colder months of the year.

Less Vitamin D in the Winter

For starters, you’re less likely to get proper exposure to vitamin D—the sunshine vitamin—during the winter months. In fact, an estimated 41.6 percent of U.S. adults experience low or deficient levels of this important fat-soluble vitamin, which plays a crucial role helping the body retain calcium and phosphorus—both of which are critical for proper bone building. “Your vitamin D levels increase with exposure to the sun,” explains functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. “So with shorter days and less sunlight exposure, the body produces less vitamin D—and a deficiency can lead to fatigue, mood swings, and a general dip in energy levels.”

Lower Iron Levels

Sometimes low iron levels can also be to blame. Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. are iron deficient, including 5 million who are actually anemic, according to a study published in the journal Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. “Iron levels can drop during winter time because of a multitude of reasons—less fresh produce, the desire to eat comfort foods over iron-rich foods, and less physical exercise (exercise is linked to an increase in iron absorption),” Rodgers explains. “With lower iron levels, you might experience fatigue and less stamina overall—just a feeling of tiredness and exhaustion.”

Also in winter, we tend to gravitate towards comfort foods which might be less nutritious—especially lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which provide our bodies with nourishing healthy fats. “Omega-3s are super important for overall brain health and to keep our mood a little more even keel,” adds Rodgers. 

The good news is that it is possible to keep your health—and boost your energy—up during the cold winter months.

6 Foods to Boost Energy Levels

Here are some of the top energy-boosting foods you should reach for this time of year, according to nutrition experts.


Eggs are nutrient powerhouses that are packed with protein along with a host of other vital nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin D, fats and choline which is hugely important for supporting brain and nerve functions. Nicole M. Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University and author of What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant, recommends trying to start your day off with eggs—either scrambling or boiling them so get quick protein and key nutrients into your system to provide long-lasting energy throughout the day.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds not only help keep you full for longer, but also help you feel more satisfied and satiated, Rodgers explains. “They are rich in protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients (it varies, depending on the nut or seed),” she says. She recommends tossing nuts—almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews—into your morning yogurt, grabbing a handful as a snack, or throwing them on top of a salad for added crunchiness and energy-boosting protein. 

Citrus fruits

You probably know to consume oranges, grapefruits and lemons when you’re feeling under the weather, and you should consider doing the same throughout the winter season. “Citrus fruits, like clementines, are rich in vitamin C, which plays a vital role in immune function and helps ward off colds and flu commonly associated with winter,” says Michelle Routhenstein, R.D.N., Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Preventive Cardiology Dietitian at “They are also rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, which help reduce inflammation and support overall and heart health.” She recommends enjoying citrus fruits as a snack, in salads, or freshly squeezed as part of a marinade can provide a refreshing and energizing boost during the colder months.

Dark, leafy greens

Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard are rich in iron, which helps transport oxygen to your cells and simultaneously helps combat fatigue, explains Routhenstein. “They are also packed with vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate and magnesium, supporting overall energy levels and immune function,” she says. “Incorporating swiss chard into stir fries, omelets and soups provides a nutrient-dense boost to your winter diet.”

Acorn squash

Don’t peel the skin off your acorn squash—this part that is rich in complex carbohydrates, provides a steady source of energy and is a great source of fiber, aiding digestion and promoting satiety, Routhenstein explains. “It is also high in fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, which support immune function and promote sustained energy levels,” she says. “Roasting acorn squash and incorporating it into soups, stews, or simply as a side dish adds both warmth and heart-protective nutrients to winter meals.”


This gluten-free, heart healthy whole grain is rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, explains Routhenstein, so it is able to provide a sustained release of energy. “It’s also a good source of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, and B vitamins, which support energy metabolism and combat winter fatigue,” she says. She recommends adding quinoa into warm salads or soups, or serving it as a side dish to create a nutritious and energizing addition to winter meals.

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