06 Feb 5 Foods to Fight the Winter Blues
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report
As the cold weather is in full swing, many people find themselves experiencing the winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, affects 25 million Americans, many of them women. People who suffer from SAD may experience sadness, lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy, poor sleep, energy loss and feelings of worthlessness. They may also sleep too much or not sleep enough. If you get these feelings during the winter months, it’s important to speak with your physician.
If you’re just looking to keep your spirits high, turn to your kitchen. Research shows including these five foods in your diet can help boost mood:
Researchers at Tufts University collected data from over 3,000 people between the ages of 15 and 39 and found that those with slight depression had lower concentrations of folate in their blood than those who had never been depressed. Adding high folate foods like lentils to your diet can help keep your body’s folate levels up. If you still aren’t sure you’re getting enough, speak with your physician, who can determine your folate levels by ordering a simple blood test.
Other foods rich in folate: orange juice, spinach, beans, hazelnuts, chickpeas, avocados
The “good” fats found in salmon are important for many reasons including brain function and heart health. Eating your omega-3 fats has also been found to help mood disorders like depression. Several studies have found that people with depression are more likely to be low on omega-3 fats. It’s just another reason to make sure you get your fill of these healthy fats.
Other foods rich in omega-3 fats: tuna, sardines, flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds
Serotonin is a chemical that regulates hunger and feelings of happiness and well-being. This feel-good chemical is enhanced by sunlight. With the shorter days of winter upon us, the lack of sunlight may not allow serotonin to do its job.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps produce serotonin. Kick up your intake of tryptophan-filled foods like yogurt, which can help improve serotonin production.
Other foods rich in tryptophan: turkey, chicken, beef, soy, spelt, beans, tuna, nuts, eggs
A lack of zinc has been associated with depressive behavior in animal studies. Animal-based foods like beef are brimming with zinc. To keep saturated fat at bay, choose leaner cuts of beef that have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and 95 milligrams or less of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. Look for the words “loin” or “round” in the name to make sure you’re choosing a lean cut.
Other foods rich in zinc: oysters, chicken, yogurt, whole grains
Several studies have found that vitamin D can help fight SAD. This “sunshine vitamin” helps produce the feel-good chemical serotonin. Because your body can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, it may be lacking in winter months when you don’t go outside as much. Vitamin D also helps the brain’s neurotransmitters work better – and is another reason to eat foods high in vitamin D like mushrooms.
Other foods rich in vitamin D: fortified milk, salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, fortified soy milk