Foods for Fighting Winter Blues

Besides a small handful of you who absolutely lovvvee and feel your best during the winter, the majority of you don't. When the sun goes down early and it's dark and cold, it's a little hard not to fill bummed out and just plain tired all the time. This is real! it's called SAD: 

The common symptoms of SAD include weight gain and increased intake of carbs (mainly processed, sugary ones), lethargy and fatigue, Irritability and decreased sociability, and lowered motivation. Sound familiar?

Luckily there are amazing foods out there that can boost your mood and energy....and I don’t mean drowning yourself in red wine and dark chocolate (well, in moderation of course). Mother Nature provides all of the essential ingredients our brain needs to function optimally and lift your spirits. Check out some of these super foods for fighting winter blues:

  • Omega-3 Fats: While you've probably heard that fish is a “brain food”, you might not realize that it’s a “mood food”, too. The essential fatty acids found in cold water fish – called omega-3s – are critical to brain health and mood. The higher the level of omega-3s in your blood, the more serotonin you make and the more responsive you become to the effects of this “feel good” brain chemical. Optimize your omega-3s by enjoying wild, sustainable seafood (like salmon and sardines) and by taking a high quality fish oil supplement.
  • Vitamin D: The “sunshine vitamin” does a lot to help brighten your mood. Due to lack of sunshine, up to 90 percent of us are Vitamin-D deficient at least part of the year. If you live in a climate where getting regular sunshine isn't possible, you might try supplementing your diet with vitamin-D rich cod-liver oil or take a supplement with 2,000-5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. Fabulous foods rich in vitamin D include the same seafoods listed above, oysters, eggs, and mushrooms.
  • B Vitamins: Vitamins B6, B12 and folate also help to produce mood-boosting serotonin. But that’s not all this B-vitamin trio does. They also lower homocysteine – an amino acid that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression. In fact, a 2002 study found that women with high homocysteine levels had double the incidence of depression. Because B-vitamins in your body are depleted by stress (which is plentiful during the holidays!) be sure to include lots of foods rich in these nutrients in your diet, including leafy greens, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, chicken, salmon, sardines, shrimp, lamb, beef, and liver.
  • Selenium: Low levels of selenium are also associated with an increased risk of depression. To boost your selenium levels grab a handful of Brazil Nuts (just one provides 150 percent of the RDA of mood-enhancing selenium).
  • Antioxidants: Fighting free radicals means protecting cells – including brain cells, which are most susceptible to oxidative damage. Power up your diet with high antioxidant foods including organic blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries, organic dark cocoa; and spices including cinnamon, turmeric and cloves.
  • Animal Protein: If you’re a vegetarian, you may be lacking an important depression-fighting amino acid – tryptophan, an important precursor to serotonin. Protein-rich foods such as grass-fed beef, free range poultry, wild seafood and pastured eggs are the best sources of tryptophan.

Of course keeping up with your exercise routine is key for feeling good! With exercise and consuming the above nutrients, the likelihood of not staying in bed all day and gaining 20 lbs will diminish greatly...and if that’s not enough, plan a tropical escape for a few days!