Of the nearly two thirds of U.S. adults surveyed, 64 percent agree that they are filled with greater joy soaking up the summer sun, then bundling up in winter coats. According to studies done at Cornell University, the winter blues and its more severe foil, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects about four times as many women as men.
Although the science is still relatively new, research has begun to reveal how mindful eaters can choose their fuel to help achieve or maintain a desired mental state. Our moods are linked to the production or use of certain brain chemicals. Scientists have identified many of the natural chemicals in foods that change the way we feel. Food influences neurotransmitters by attaching to brain cells and changing the way they behave. This opens pathways to those cells so that other mood-altering chemicals can come through the gates and attach themselves to brain cells.
So the next time you want to change your mood, take a walk to the kitchen - it might just save you a trip to the therapist!
To ease feelings of depression: Eat more fish! Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna) may help ease depressive symptoms. A recent study showed that eating fish twice a week was associated with lower risk of depression and suicide. Magnesium, can also ease symptoms of depression. Enjoying a bowl of whole-grain cereal and soy milk topped with walnuts will supply you with magnesium and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which will ease your frame of mind into the afternoon frenzy when your kids come home.
To get out of a bad mood:A lack of selenium can cause bad moods. Individuals suffering from too little selenium have been shown to be more anxious, irritable, hostile and depressed than people with normal levels of selenium. Pistachios, salmon, and shitake mushrooms can instantaneously get you out of this funk.
When you want to feel pleasant and alert:Eating foods that stimulate the release of dopamine may produce enjoyable feelings. Phenylnine is an essential amino acid found in the brain and blood that can convert in the body to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine instantly increasing your energy and alertness. Start your morning off with a bowl of hot oatmeal to warm you up try adding skim milk and sliced bananas to add a boost of dopamine and to leave you feeling happy throughout the day. Breakfast is a must because it provides glucose to your brain, making you mentally efficient and vigilant.
When you want to feel happy: When we don't get enough exposure to sunlight our moods and physical health may suffer. More specifically, serotonin levels, a hormone associated with elevating your mood rises when you're exposed to sunlight. So we often feel sad during the darker, winter months. An amino acid, tryptophan helps raise serotonin levels in your body, causing you to feel upbeat once again. Eating foods that are high in tryptophan such as, simple carbs, low-fat cottage cheese, nuts, and chicken will help cure your winter blues. A slice of whole-wheat toast with low-fat cottage cheese and jam is a sure way to boost your mood.
Get Moving:Studies show that anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of exercise every day can have a positive impact on your mood. When we exercise our body releases endorphins that help us to feel happy, but it also has been shown to reduce stress, which often intensifies feelings of depression brought on by the winter blues. It can also increase your joy by making your skinny jeans and little black dress fit better, and is there any greater feeling then that?!
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.