By Tracy Satov
As the days have gotten shorter and darker, many people experience seasonal depression. The less sunlight in combination with cold winter weather, many just want to stay indoors and put their head under their covers.
Are there any foods that could improve your mood?
For starters, starting off your day with breakfast is the best way to increase your alertness, energy and mood for the day. It’s easy to feel better in the morning if you jumpstart your day with breakfast. You will increase your chances of experiencing that same great feeling all day if you include these types of foods:
Foods such as chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, and lean beef can make you more alert, satisfied and energetic. My favorite type of protein is one that includes Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega- 3 fatty acids are mood boosters on their own. Studies show that people who eat Omega – 3 fatty acids (eggs, fish, and nuts…) have decreased incidence of depression. Choosing Omega-3 eggs are the best choice because they are the most absorbable protein to nourish your body, your mind, and satisfy your hunger. Walnuts and cashews are the best nuts to choose when feeling blue as they contain omega3 fatty acids and tryptophan (the precursor for serotonin- the happy neurotransmitter).
2. Complex Carbohydrates (whole grains)
Some of us, when we are depressed, reach for carbohydrates (breads, bagels, pasta); surprisingly there is a physiological reason for that and why we crave these types of foods. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains can increase your serotonin levels to keep you calm. Perhaps reaching for these types of foods is our body’s way of instinctively trying to improve our mood. What’s interesting is one study on weight loss, showed that people on a low carb diet lost the same amount of weight as high carb dieters but were more irritable, negative and experienced overall bad mood. This is where the expression “hangry” comes from. So the next time you feel depressed, don’t beat yourself up too much for going for that bagel to boost your mood. Just don’t over indulge! Choosing a whole grain or flax seed bagel can make you feel great without the guilt.
3. Vitamin B12 and Folate (Folic Acid) are two vitamins that improve your mood
Folate is important for energy production in the body. Incorporating folate in your diet can increase your energy. You can find folate in fortified cereals, legumes, lentils, soybeans, and wheat germ. Vitamin B12 is also essential to combat fatigue and fight anemia. You can find it in shellfish, eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese.
4. The more color in your diet the better you will feel
Research shows that people who eat a plant based diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables are happier. The antioxidants and phytonutrients boost immunity, which allows your mind and body to remain healthy. Fighting off those free radicals is one way to fight depression. So enjoy your berries, melons and tomatoes all year around.
The last question, is what to brew?
5. Both green tea and coffee have mood boosting appeal
Studies show that people who drink green tea experience less symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, a person has to drink four cups per day to have the most benefits. Coffee, on the other hand, can boost your mood in just one cup. The drawback is that drinking too much coffee has been associated with anxiety and jitters.
May I suggest the next time you are feeling a lull in your day, try having whole grain crackers with light cream cheese and smoked salmon with a cup of green tea to boost your spirits.
Here’s to eating well, and a JOYFUL holiday season.
Tracy Satov is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master’s degree in Science from New York University. She is a member of the Ordre Professionnel des Diététistes du Québec, Dietitians of Canada and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She lived in New York City for 9 years, where she worked as a consulting dietitian for hospitals, assisted living, and long-term care facilities. Before moving back to Montreal she was a college professor and was working in private practice. She helped hundreds of clients to resolve dietary challenges that include weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and a pre/post natal nutrition. Currently she writes a nutrition column for the Montreal Suburban, was interviewed on Global Morning News and has her own private practice in which she does nutrition counseling privately or in group sessions. Tracy has vast knowledge base and experience with all types of clients. She has created a unique and innovative way of helping people achieve their dietary goals.