Cold temperatures and shorter days can be a recipe for those winter blues. Though not everyone experiences this emotional season change, it's very real for some. But, like most things, lifestyle can play a huge role in the degree of how this can affect your life. Going outside to breathe some fresh air, getting natural sunlight , exercising, being social, and adjusting your diet can all affect your mood. So, of course, today I'm going to be touching on some foods that can help keep your mood in check.
More and more research is emerging in regards to our GI system and micro biome contributing to our mind and moods (1). Keeping a healthy balance of gut flora can not only keep you from getting sick but also possibly from feeling depressed or anxious! Including probiotic foods in your diet daily is the best and most economical way. Some of my favorites are plain organic cow's or goat's milk kefir or yogurt, raw fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, or a shot of beet kvass.
I know I talk an awful lot about omega-3's, but they really are an important fat that many aren't getting enough of in their diet. Omega-3 fats are key for brain function and may be mood stabilizers. Higher consumption has been correlated with better mental health (2) and lower rates of postpartum depression (3). Great sources are fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as plant sources like flax and chia seeds.
It's no wonder with the decreased sunlight and increased indoor time that most Americans are probably not getting adequate vitamin D during the winter months. This is a double doozy since research has shown that Vitamin D might play a key role in regulating mood and warding off depression (4). Sunshine is always the best source, but when not possible, try to make sure you're fitting high vitamin D foods in on a regular basis. These include organic, free-range eggs (egg yolks are where the Vitamin D is), organic, free-range dairy products, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, and liver.
Lower intakes of this mineral have been shown to be related to poorer moods (5). One of the best sources of selenium is Brazil nuts, which you can easily get your day's serving in just 2-3 nuts! Other great sources are yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines, and shrimp.
Folic acid is related to our serotonin levels in the brain, which is a big player in our mood! Folate-rich foods to include are spinach, lentils, black and navy beans, asparagus, beets, and Brussels sprouts.
Alcohol, a mood buster
This one may make me a party pooper, but it's no surprise that alcohol can exacerbate a depressed state. There is also evidence pointing to a relationship between serotonin dysfunction, negative moods, and excessive alcohol (6). That said, if you're struggling with a mood disorder, it's likely best to skip the adult beverages for a bit until feeling more like yourself.
1. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2017; 16: 14.
2. Public Health Nutrition, June 2002; vol 5(3): pp 427-31
3. Journal of Affective Disorders, May 2002; vol 69 (1-3): pp 15-29.
4. Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–393.
5. Nutritional Neuroscience, December 2002; vol 5(6): pp 363-74.
6. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research, April 2001; vol 25(4): pp 487-95.
Disclaimer: The information shared on this website is for general purposes only and has not been reviewed by the FDA. The information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical conditions and is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional. You should seek the care of your doctor before changing dietary or lifestyle habits. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.