5 foods to counter seasonal affective disorder

January 02, 2018

As temperatures dip and the sun goes down in the early evening during the winter months, you may find yourself feeling moody or depressed. It can start well after the end of daylight savings time and last into the winter, and it’s easy to dismiss these feelings as just “winter blues,” but you may be suffering from a real medical condition known as seasonal affective disorder (often referred to by its appropriate acronym SAD).

SAD is a type of depression brought about by changes in seasons. The symptoms—depressed mood, anxiety, lethargy—typically start in the fall and continue until the onset of spring.

A frequently cited cause of SAD is a change in your circadian rhythm, which happens when your body’s biological clock and chemical balances are altered by lower levels of sunlight in the fall and winter months. Reduced exposure to sunlight lowers levels of the brain chemical, serotonin, which affects your mood; and seasonal changes in melatonin levels can affect your sleep/wake cycles.

While you can’t do much about the sun going down earlier, there is a pleasurable way to help your body restore balance—eating!

Now we’re not talking guilty pleasure junk foods or those tempting comfort carbs. Certain foods contain the nutrients that can help get your mood back on track. You should add vitamins D and B12, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid to your diet during cold weather months. Here are a few foods that contain those nutrients:

Milk – loaded with vitamin D, which supports the production of serotonin. You would normally get this from sunlight, so think of it as drinking a glass of sunshine every day. It’s also beneficial to bone health and is a good source of calcium. Check out this recipe for a milk banana smoothie.

Salmon – contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, among them a specific one called EPA, which has been found to combat depression. Salmon also offers a dose of vitamin D and B12. Introduce your kids to salmon patties as an alternative to hamburgers.

Eggs  - a whole egg (yep, include those yolks) is packed with proteins which boost energy, and also provide unsaturated fats, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins D and B12. An egg frittata is a tasty cold-weather brunch dish.

Brown rice – light carbohydrates can help restore serotonin levels. Brown rice is a healthy, low-carb option that helps stabilize blood sugar levels and is rich in fiber and anti-oxidants. Try this recipe for rice stuffed bell peppers.

Leafy greens – spinach, kale, and broccoli contain folic acid, which has been known to work as a mood booster. They also contain energy-boosting vitamin B12. Check out this creamed spinach recipe.

Commit to trying new recipes with these mood-lifting foods. Incorporate them into your cold-weather diet for a fun and taste-bud inspiring experience, and say goodbye to the wintertime blues!

Check out the huge Swedish Healthy Recipe library, with tons of tasty, easy-to-make and good-for-you dishes.

 Also recommended for you:
Take the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) quiz
Five ways to take action against depression during the holidays

Topics: Nutrition, Wellness