Even amid the cheerful holidays aren’t there days when you just feel in a funk? If so you aren’t alone. According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 1 in 5 Americans - mainly women - suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression commonly known as the winter blues.
Bouts of cold weather sadness can leave us zapped of energy. For many feeling depressed triggers comfort eating and bingeing that easily leads to weight gain and further upset. But did you know there are foods that can actually help make you feel good – and even help banish dark day doldrums?
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 eggs and whole wheat toast, which stimulate dopamine production, and you will feel more energized throughout the day.
To ease depression: Eat more fish! Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna) may help ease depressive symptoms. People with higher blood levels of these fatty acids were reported to experience less depressive symptoms, and were generally found to be more pleasant. This effect may be attributed to the fact that omega-3 fats make up about 8 percent of our brain. Higher intakes of these fats are associated with an increased volume of the parts of the brain responsible for mood and behavior.
To relieve a bad mood: Lack of selenium may be a factor in 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. Foods that can help beat the blues: Brazil nuts, salmon, and shitake mushrooms.
When you need a lift: Levels of serotonin, a hormone in the brain that affects mood, increases with exposure to sunlight. Similarly, an amino acid called tryptophan that’s found in some foods helps raise serotonin levels. Eating foods that are high in tryptophan, such as low- fat cottage cheese, nuts, and chicken, can help keep winter spirits bright.
For more tips on healthy eating, drinking and weight loss, preview my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling F-Factor Diet. In partnership with the Hain Celestial Group, Tanya has a national line of high-fiber foodsmarketed under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.