Yes, It’s grey and cheerless out there! As we move into the late fall and early winter, It’s not uncommon to suddenly get the ?blues? as our mood dips right along with the temperatures. Experiencing this sad outlook is thought to be related to the reduced sunlight synonymous with the colder weather, and it can make us downright miserable. Fortunately, there are some foods you can easily incorporate into your diet to help boost your sagging spirits!
You’re probably familiar with Greek yogurt. But did you know that it can help boost your mood? Greek yogurt is high in protein, and a high-protein snack can raise your brain’s norephinephrine and dopamine levels. Elevating these important neurotransmitters can often improve mental well-being.
E is for…
Yes, you guessed it. Eggs, like Greek yogurt, are high in protein; they also contain B12 (think healthy brain and neural functioning) and vitamin D. The yolks of eggs are full of B vitamins, vitamin co-factors which are often depleted during times of stress. This is important in dealing with the cold weather blues, since high periods of stress can predispose us toward seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Start your Christmas eating early with healthy chocolate! Chocolate contains theobromine and phenylethylamine, both mood-lifting compounds. Additionally, chocolate can lower stress and anxiety and contains high antioxidant levels. But stay moderate; you should aim for one ounce daily, and make sure It’s dark chocolate (sugar-loaded milk chocolate doesn’t convey the same benefits).
Eat Your Nuts & Seeds
Well, not all nuts and seeds. Those particularly remarkable for their mood-enhancing effects include walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds. These all contain concentrated alpha-linoleic (omega-3), an essential fatty acid that improves mental well-being over time. I recommend starting with one handful of walnuts daily, or two tbsp. ground flax seeds or one tbsp. chia seeds. If You’re unfamiliar with chia seeds, don’t be put off; these unusually-named seeds are of ancient origin and are astonishingly high in omega-3 content. You can read more about them here.
Just as the omega-3 fatty acids from certain nuts and seeds are important for mental health, so is adequate fish intake. Fish is another, and often highly concentrated, source of omega-3. A note of caution, however; with fish, there are concerns over toxins and pollutants stored in fish flesh (especially with farmed fish). Eating wild-caught fish is preferable, and twice a week in order to reap the mood-enhancing benefits.
Take Your Vitamin D
Of course this list would not be complete without touching on the importance of vitamin D in mood disorders, especially SAD. Low vitamin D levels are correlated with increased incidence of SAD, and in our Canadian fall and winter, the sun’s rays aren’t direct (or available) enough to stimulate sufficient vitamin D production in our bodies. Consequently, supplementing with vitamin D (choose the D3 form for maximum bioavailability) daily for both adults and children is usually necessary.
The temperatures have fallen, but your mood doesn’t have to. Check your cupboard and fridge for good mood food!
Katie D’Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.