If the winter blues have got you down in the dumps, and that annual resolve to get up at 6am for a leisurely run isn't exactly panning out, consider taking the easier route to fighting the January blahs by eating mood-boosting foods.
It’s the perennial, post-Christmas hangover that gets us every time. Not only are all the holiday parties over and done with, but winter has sharpened its icy knives, the skies are unrelentingly grey, and everyday life has resumed. Getting yourself out of the doldrums, however, can be as simple as watching what you eat. Not surprisingly, the foods on our anti-blues list also happen to be vitamin and nutrient powerhouses and exclude processed, fatty foods high in empty calories. Here’s a round-up of all-natural, mood-enhancing anti-depressants that can help lift you out of the winter blues -- legally.
Researchers at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Florida found that chemicals in blueberries, raspberries and strawberries bear a striking structural similarity to valporic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug. That’s in addition to the host of antioxidant properties and flavonoids such as anthocyanidins, which have been shown to boost brain function.
The health benefits of green tea have been studied at length, but a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took a different approach and examined the possible connection with mental health. The result? In a study of about 1,060 elderly Japanese, a higher consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.
Vitamin D-rich foods
During the cold, grey winter months, when the sun is in hibernation or its rays weak at best, getting enough vitamin D -– also known as the sunshine vitamin -– is particularly important. Dietary sources include salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, fortified milk and orange juice, as well as cheese and egg yolks.
Foods high in folic acid and Vitamin B12
Studies have shown that depressive patients have been found to have low levels of both folate and vitamin B12. Deficiency in either vitamin can also lead to fatigue and weakness -- never a good combination, but even less so during winter when we’re already feeling sluggish. So stock up on your dark, green leafy vegetables like spinach, as well as beans and legumes, which are likewise good sources of folic acid. Foods rich in B12 include fish and shellfish, yogurt and milk.
This should come as no surprise, given the volumes of literature -- along with anecdotal evidence -- on the mood-enhancing effect of chocolate. How does it work? Supposedly by boosting levels of serotonin, the mood-altering chemical in the brain. But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. To maximize benefits, reach for dark chocolate, and limit consumption to one ounce a day.