Only 5 percent of Americans have clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but that doesn't mean the seasons can't affect your mood; they definitely can. With that said, your diet can also support seasonal depression.
The Gut Connection
In an earlier article of ours on "seasonal blues," we mention that serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's produced in your gut and responsible for regulating mood, cognition, learning, and memory. Serotonin production and diet thus act in tandem. In short, what you eat affects your stomach's ability to produce the body's natural happiness drug.
Foods that are Linked to Depression
According to Harvard Health, certain foods are linked to depression, like "red and processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables."
The take-away is that it's important to know if your diet is causing depressive feelings.
Eat Strategically in the Winter to Boost Serotonin
Boost serotonin production by incorporating tryptophan-rich foods into your diet. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps your body create serotonin. Vegetarian-friendly foods rich in Tryptophan include cheese, milk, tofu, nuts & seeds, and pineapple. For those who eat meat, go for salmon or poultry: like turkey or chicken.
Eat Clean To Support a Better Mood
Of course, finding the fix to seasonal sadness can't be that straightforward. All bodies function at various levels of well-being and with different dietary needs. A poor diet could be all that's needed to encourage unwanted depressive feelings, regardless of the amount of sunlight.
Combat symptoms of SAD by upping the quantity of leafy greens and vegetables you eat throughout the winter months. Most vegetables contain B vitamins that play important roles in supporting brain functions and producing chemicals that affect mood. Deficiencies in B12, B6, and B9 (folic acid) may be linked to depression.
Add these five B12 powerhouse veggies to your shopping list immediately:
Other dark leafy veggies to consider adding to the shopping list include: "collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens." Beyond B vitamins, eating omega-3 fatty acids can decrease feelings of depression by increasing serotonin production in the gut.
Learn More about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If you want to learn more about the big winter SAD, try reading some of our previous articles:
Seasonal Blues? Here's How to Cheer Yourself Up!
In this blog, we give you several suggestions for bettering your mood in the winter. We also break it down, answering questions like what causes it? Here's an excerpt:
"Have you felt under the weather but don't know if it's the big SAD? The Cleveland Clinic says to watch for changes in your mood: sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, extreme fatigue/ lack of energy, a "leaden" sensation in the limbs, fatigue, or carbohydrates cravings, and weight gain. The leading theory for SAD is the lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months. But there' are a lot of potential factors at play. Scientists think the change in daylight disrupts our sleep patterns and, in turn, our internal biological clocks. Essentially, we can become susceptible to hormonal changes with all the 'bodily disruptions.' And those hormonal changes can make us feel… well, pretty crappy."
Get to Know Your Body Clock and Stay Sane This Winter
Depression is complex, and we can't name a single reason you're not feeling your best. Always talk to your doctor if you feel overwhelmed and hopeless about managing symptoms. This article talks about the connection between the body clock, preexisting conditions, and SAD. Here's an excerpt:
"For example, the existence of seasonal affective disorder has become well known. What's less well known is that other mental illnesses are also linked to the body's sleep-wake cycles. For example, those with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia often experience severe circadian rhythm disruptions; a symptom thought to be linked to genetic control of the body's internal clock."