Whether wintertime for you means blizzards or drizzle, one thing is certain: short, dark days can take a toll on your mood. But the solution isn’t to hibernate. To turn your mood around, you need to amp up your healthy habits. Exercise, especially outdoors, can help, as can some foods.
Get D from fish and mushrooms.
Because sunshine triggers your body to make vitamin D, these levels plummet during the dark winter months. Symptoms of depression are linked to dips in both daylight and vitamin D, according to a 2015 study published in Psychiatry Research. Since you can’t turn up the sun, try eating two weekly 3.5-ounce servings of oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, with a side of wild mushrooms (which contain more vitamin D than commercially grown mushrooms) to get your recommended dose. D-fortified foods like milk, yogurt and some orange juices may also help you boost your mood.
Turn to turkey.
Think about Thanksgiving’s warm fuzzies and thank the tryptophan-rich turkey. No, tryptophan won’t make you sleepy, but this amino acid is linked with better mood and less stress and anxiety, according to a 2015 study published in the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. Looking beyond turkey, ounce-for-ounce, mozzarella cheese and pumpkin seeds contain even more tryptophan.
Shell some soybeans.
Serve up edamame for smiles all winter long. Soybeans are a rich source of magnesium, which, according to research published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, has been linked to lower incidences of depression in Norway — a country gripped with winter from October to April. And, 68 percent of Americans don’t get their recommended daily value of magnesium. Other foods high in magnesium include almonds, spinach and brown rice.
Skip the sugar.
If your go-to comfort food is a sugary brownie, it could be counterproductive. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating foods high in added sugars and refined starches, like white bread, rice and pasta, is linked with increased risk of depression. The good news? Researchers also found that the more fruits and veggies you consume, the less likely you are to experience the blues.
Are you SAD?
An occasional funk is one thing, but if your bummed-out mood corresponds with the seasons, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD. Symptoms include feeling tired, irritated, overly sensitive to criticism and even weight gain. Experts believe that shorter days and less sunlight disrupt circadian rhythms, messing with the feel-good chemical serotonin.
Getting outside for a walk, hike or run might be the solution. Exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, two factors linked with SAD. Plus, exercising alfresco exposes you to sunlight. Too cold to go out? Consider a light-therapy box that mimics sunshine, or find a good therapist.
EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.