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5 Good Mood Foods That Beat Winter Blues, Instantly!

The winter blues can get you down, and if you are feeling a little bummed out while the length of sunshine is short, you aren’t alone. In fact, the winter blues is a very real thing that affects up to 8% of the general adult population worldwide.1

Also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder is most common during the winter months, but it can occur during any season. Symptoms of SAD include feelings of anxiety, fatigue, sleep problems, and full-blown depression.2

The winter blues may take away your sunshine, but it doesn’t have to steal your happiness. Keep SAD away with these five good mood foods.

Make the World Your Oyster

Many people don’t realize that during the winter months, they tend to eat fewer foods that contain an energy-boosting vitamin known as B12. Also involved in maintaining proper brain function and the central nervous system, B12 plays a major role in staving off depression.

While you can purchase a Vitamin B supplement, you may also want to start eating more shellfish. These include oysters, clams, and mussels. These nutrient-dense foods also provide minerals to support your good mood including zinc, iodine, and selenium.

Go Fishing for Salmon

Your brain is comprised mostly of fatty acids derived from classes of “good” fats known as omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. And your brain cannot function without enough of them! Since a good mood is a function of the brain, be sure to consume adequate amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

One of the best sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids is fatty fish, with salmon topping the list. However, not all salmon is created equal, and many farmed varieties can be artificially colored. Only purchase wild caught salmon for the best nutritional mood boost.

Grab Sunshine with Mushrooms

The sun is a primary source of Vitamin D for most people. Without it, you may experience SAD during the winter months. If you do not get enough Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), your mood can take a turn for the worse, and you might not even realize it. In the U. S., most adults do not meet the daily recommendations for Vitamin D (600 IU), so you may also be deficient.

Mushrooms provide a healthy dose of the sunshine vitamin, boosting the production of feel-good brain chemicals, including serotonin, melatonin and dopamine.3

Be Jubilant for Cherries

During the winter months, there is less sunshine. This means that your natural body clock (circadian rhythm) could be disrupted. During sleep, your body produces important brain chemicals needed to regulate everything from your appetite to your good mood. Without proper sleep, you may suffer a loss of these neurotransmitters, and your happiness. Cherries contain a natural potent source of melatonin – the brain chemical needed for restful, regular sleep.4

Get Hot for Chocolate

Go ahead and reach for a midday pick-me-up from your favorite candy! Chocolate is not just a sweet treat, it’s also a nutritional superfood. Cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) contains a very powerful antioxidant compound known as theobromine. Just make sure it’s dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or more).
This phytochemical not only supports your immune system, but it is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it beneficial to your good mood. Studies have confirmed the positive effects of chocolate on happiness – it’s all good!5,6

Your happiness is what keeps you going, especially during the cold winter months. Hold onto it by adding these five good mood foods to your menu, today!

1. Darren Cotterell. Pathogenesis and management of seasonal affective disorder. Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry.

2. Seasonal Depression. Mental Health America. Accessed January 9, 2017.

3. Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Jun 1.

4. Wilfred R. Pigeon, Michelle Carr. Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Med Food. 2010 Jun; 13(3): 579–583.

5. Judelson DA, Preston AG. Effects of theobromine and caffeine on mood and vigilance. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013 Aug;33(4):499-506. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e3182905d24.

6. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008) 62, 247–253; doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602707

About the Author

Dr. Amy Lee

Dr. Amy Lee has board certifications in internal medicine, physician nutrition and obesity medicine specialty. She practices internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on nutrition, wellness and weight management. Her Clinical nutrition fellowship training at UCLA has allowed her to incorporate realistic lifestyle modification in all her medicine patients.