If you find yourself dealing with the “winter blues” during the colder, darker months, you’re definitely not alone.
While it’s normal to feel a bit less energetic or cheerful during the winter months, some people experience something much more intense called seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a type of depression related to the change of seasons.
SAD often results in fatigue, cognitive issues, and changes in both eating habits and weight. Caused by changes in weather, a lack of vitamin D, a drop in serotonin, and changes to melatonin levels, SAD affects about five percent of adults in the United States. It’s more prevalent among women than men.
“The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring,” the American Psychiatric Association notes. “The most difficult months for people with SAD in the United States tend to be January and February.”
In addition to talk therapy, light therapy, and prescribed antidepressant medication, there are also some ways to cope with SAD that involve healthy eating. We spoke with experts to learn just how to help boost your mood through the power of food. Keep reading to learn more, and next, don’t miss the #1 best juice to drink every day, says science.
Starting your day out with healthy breakfast cereal can be a great way to give your body a boost while also helping you manage the symptoms of SAD. Juliana Tamayo, a Nutritionist, MS, as well as editor for FitnessClone.com, tells Eat This, Not That!“Most fortified cereals are high in fiber, vitamin B12, and folic acid. These are three essential nutrients in fighting off symptoms of depression.”
“On one hand, fiber promotes a healthier gut microbiota, which improves immunity,” Tamayo explains. “Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for neurological health, which is why often individuals deficient in it develop anemia and lethargy. Folic acid, on the other hand, is part of regeneration and creation of new cells, which helps keep your body feeling healthy and young.”
If you happen to be a fan of seafood, then adding fish to your diet might be an ideal option for you. “Eating lean proteins can help ease the symptoms of the ‘winter blues’ because it provides a source of protein that does not cause indigestion or inflammation,” Tamayo says.
Tamayo adds that “fatty fish is also good at fighting off symptoms of SAD because it is very high in the essential fatty acid omega 3. Studies show that omega 3 is highly anti-inflammatory but also a good source of energy for the brain, as it helps regulate mood and help with neural connections.”
Do you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? Then tasty tofu could be the best mood-boosting food for you. Susan Kelly, RDN with Pacific Analytics, tells Eat This, Not That!“Maintained levels of iron are linked with a reduced risk of developing winter blues and depression. A vast collection of your brain cells need iron to prevent depressive symptoms. So, one needs to ensure good iron levels in the body.”
“Although it seems counterproductive to eat sugar, in this case, a good dark cacao chocolate can help ease symptoms of depression,” Tamayo noted. “Studies show that dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which is an essential mineral that plays a role in easing symptoms of depression.”
For more, check out the 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.