HOW TO FIGHT SEASONAL DEPRESSION WITH MOOD BOOSTING FOODS
Every fall and winter as the days get shorter and sunlight becomes more sparse, people might notice they feel a little “off.” They might be having a tough time setting aside sad feelings or a bad mood. It’s estimated about 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression, also called “the winter blues,” or seasonal affective disorder. Another 20 percent of people might have mild feelings of seasonal sadness – feelings that researchers say are four times more common in women compared to men.
With so many people affected at some level by seasonal depression, it is good to know that more and more research is being devoted to this topic. Nutritionists have come up with a wealth of healthy foods all shown to help counter the effects of seasonal mood changes. While not a cure-all, certain foods and nutritional options have been shown to be natural mood boosters and help some people dealing with the winter blues start to feel better during what can be a gloomy season.
These natural suggestions are a good place to start before seeking other pharmaceutical options. We’ll walk you through some of the most common ones, so you can select a few and see what works for you.
Seasonal Depression is a real thing
For many years now, the medical community has known that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is linked to the time of year and, more specifically, to a lack of sunlight in the fall and winter and how that affects our bodies.
When we are exposed to sunlight, it stimulates the part of our brain that helps control our circadian rhythm, or our body’s internal clock, according to Harvard Health, a division of Harvard Medical School. When we don’t get enough sunlight, it throws off our circadian rhythm and this can lead to a chemical imbalance in our brains, which can create too much of a sleep hormone and not enough serotonin – the feel-good chemical that helps boost our mood.
Seasonal depression can range from mild to severe.
How do you know if this is happening to you? Common symptoms of seasonal depression include feeling sluggish, feeling depressed for much of the day, withdrawing from your friends and family, and losing interest in things that once made you happy. Seasonal depression can also trigger overeating, as some people start to crave high-calorie and high-carbohydrate comfort foods. Some people say they have trouble concentrating, or can’t find the right word when speaking. Others become more forgetful.
There has been much research on mood-improving foods
As more research is done on seasonal depression, researchers have found there are some natural mood boosting foods that can help people beat the winter blues. One place to start is by adopting a clean eating diet. This means picking whole, nutritious foods – think fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats – and avoiding highly-processed and packaged foods that pack a lot of extra sugar, salt and chemical additives.
Some foods have mood-enhancing effects
Some foods are standouts when it comes to being natural mood boosters. These include foods high in vitamin A, C, E, K and Omega-3 fatty acids. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the foods that can help improve your mood.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods like wild Alaskan salmon and oily fish like sardines, anchovies and mackerel are good sources of this. So are walnuts and canola oil. Clinical trials on people with mood disorders have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are a promising natural treatment and even have anti-inflammatory properties, but more research is needed about how they work, according to Harvard Health.
- Vitamin C: Foods high in vitamin C can help combat seasonal depression because this particular vitamin has a big job related to our brains. Vitamin C is needed to help in the synthesis of serotonin, one of the “feel-good” chemicals our bodies produce. Foods that are good sources of C include not only citrus fruits but cantaloupe, kiwi, kale, broccoli and red peppers. Another great option is taking a plant based supplement such as Nutrilite™ Vitamin C Extended Release, which offers a slow, steady release over an 8-hour period for improved utilization of vitamin C. It is packed with more vitamin C than the equivalent of seven oranges, 16 lemons, or six grapefruits.
- Probiotics: Studies have shown there is a strong connection between good gut health and improved mood. Taking a daily probiotic supplement not only helps get more good bacteria into your digestive system, it can boost your mood. One recent study showed that 64% of people taking a probiotic had fewer symptoms of depression. You can get more probiotics into your diet by selecting foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled vegetables. You can also incorporate a daily supplement, like Nutrilite™ Digestive Probiotic, which not only helps balance your digestive system, but also helps to strengthen your immune system.
Try natural options first
While people with severe seasonal depression symptoms should always consult their doctor, those with milder symptoms may want to opt for natural mood boosters before considering pharmaceutical options. There are plenty of nutritional options that will help you to fight the winter blues and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Embracing a clean eating diet is a good start. Adding foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins like A and C will help naturally improve your mood. Adding a daily probiotic supplement is another layer of protection.
By making a few easy changes to your food routine, you can help yourself feel better even on gloomy days.
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