Is the cold, cloudy, and dreary winter weather getting you down? If so, it may be time to eat your way to a better mood. Interestingly, Best Health explains that there is a strong connection between your diet and how you’re feeling. “Food is a powerful tool that’s often overlooked in its effect on mental health,” Patrick Holford, a nutritionist and author of The Feel Good Factor: 10 Proven Ways to Boost Your Mood and Motivate Yourself, told Best Health. By consuming foods that are high in vitamins B, C, and D, magnesium, iron, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids, you can actively ensure that your body and brain are running at their very best. Here are five foods that can help you banish the winter blues.
Eating fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna, can help you feign off feelings of depression. “Omega-3 fatty acids…cannot be manufactured, you have to get them in your diet,” Dr. Richard A. Friedman, Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Bon Appétit. “These omega-3 fatty acids actually have anti-depressant effects, not just in people with seasonal depression but everybody with depression.”
In addition, Self explains that omega-3 fatty acids can improve how the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that processes happy and pleasurable feelings, functions. Salmon also provides you with plenty of mood-boosting vitamin D; Good Housekeeping notes that half a fillet of sockeye salmon has more than 1,400 International Units of vitamin D, which is more than twice as much as most people need in a day.
2. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are a great source of mood-elevating vitamin C. If you aren’t getting enough of the vitamin, Mayo Clinic warns that you might suffer from feelings of fatigue and depression. Additionally, CBS explains that the vitamin C in oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes helps your body absorb iron, a mineral that assists in transporting oxygen throughout the body.
An iron deficiency can cause you to feel fatigued, and that exhaustion can impact everything from how your brain functions to your immune system, according to Web MD. Even smelling citrus fruits can positively impact your mood — Prevention notes that anxious feelings can be reduced simply by smelling orange oil. Our suggestion? Make sure you’re eating (and sniffing) plenty of citrus fruits this winter!
Ready to snap out of your winter funk? Eating spinach is a great way to improve your mood. The Washington Post explains that spinach contains folate, also known as B9 or folic acid, which helps the body create new cells and supports serotonin regulation. Serotonin relays messages between your brain and nerve cells, determines your mood, and can even regulate your social behavior.
Spinach isn’t just a one-nutrient wonder, either. Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and chard, “are high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help your body maintain its sleep cycles, restore tired muscles, and regulate stress hormones — all are critical to a good mood. Try having 1 to 2 cups a day during winter to really see a difference,” Zelana Montminy, a psychology and nutrition specialist, told Everyday Health.
Mushrooms contain two mood-boosting B vitamins, niacin and riboflavin, in addition to vitamin D, explains Everyday Health. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, titled Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis, concluded that low vitamin D levels plays a role in mental health and depression. In addition, a Boston University Medical Center study via Science Daily found that eating a serving of mushrooms is the equivalent to taking a vitamin D supplement.
“These results provide evidence that ingesting mushrooms which have been exposed to ultraviolet light and contain vitamin D2, are a good source of vitamin D that can improve the vitamin D status of healthy adults. Furthermore we found ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 was as effective in raising and maintaining a healthy adult’s vitamin D status as ingesting a supplement that contained either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3,” Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, and the principal investigator of the study, told Science Daily. To help boost your mood, Everyday Health suggests eating one-half cup of wild mushrooms daily.
Noshing on nuts is a great way to stay chipper through the cold, dark, and dreary winter. Today’s Dietitian notes that nuts such as pecans, walnuts, and almonds, contain the amino acid tryptophan. This is an essential precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can improve depression and make you feel better. Nuts are also packed with magnesium, a vital nutrient that plays a key role in how you’re feeling.
Many U.S. adults aren’t consuming enough magnesium — Psychology Today states that the average U.S. intake is around 250 milligrams a day, while the current recommended daily amount is between 320 and 420 milligrams. Today’s Dietitian warns that people who have a magnesium deficiency can suffer from chronic fatigue, increased muscle tension, an irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, which can all result in feelings of anxiety or depression. To make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients and mood-boosting vitamins, start packing nuts for a snack or incorporating them into your meals; it’s a great — and tasty — way to make sure you’re feeling your best.