Did you know that there are actually certain foods that help fight the winter blues? I’m such a huge believer that food is nature’s best medicine. If used wisely, it truly can help us overcome so many issues from inflammation to disease, and yes, even depression. Winter depression affects an increasing number of people in the American population every year due to less exposure to sunlight, which decreases our body’s own natural Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps produce many hormones in the body, including serotonin, which promotes a good mood and sense of well being. Then, you factor in more time indoors during winter, which can lead to boredom, and being less active. Depression then becomes inevitable for many people during the winter season. Yet with strategic use of certain foods in our diet, along with the removal of harmful foods, our diets can improve and prevent depression in winter, and all year round. Eat up more of these mood-boosting foods that help fight the winter blues. Your mind and tummy will be thanking you with each and every bite!
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are in fact one of the best foods that help fight the winter blues of all. Plus, they're so incredibly tasty too! Sweet potatoes are full of Vitamin C, potassium, fiber, Vitamin B6, and they contain the amino acid tryptophan, which makes you feel happy and relaxed. They also contain magnesium which lowers stress and anxiety. Sweet potatoes prevent inflammation of the joints and gastrointestinal tract, and they help prevent a rise in your blood sugar, unlike white potatoes. To beat all, the Vitamin A content in sweet potatoes will even give your skin a peachy glow regardless of the lack of sun in winter. Did I mention they’re also cheap? This makes them the perfect go-to base for any topping you like for a filling dinner. Beans, salsa, yogurt, eggs, steamed veggies, or whatever else you like, can easily go on top of a baked sweet potato with minimal effort. Talk about healthy fast food!
If you don’t like beans, try lentils! They are amazing for you, and one of the lowest calorie, cheapest source of plant protein out there. Protein is essential to preventing depression, due to the way amino acids react in your body and trigger reactions like the release of serotonin and dopamine. These critical hormones make you happy, and they prevent anxiety. Lentils have almost 18 grams of protein per serving, with no fat, and a good dose of potassium, B vitamins, and magnesium. This huge array of nutrients is a fantastic way to beat the blues in the winter. You can easily make soups with lentils, or cook some with some savory seasonings and top salads or any other dish with them.
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, romaine, arugula, spinach, and turnip greens are some of the best foods to eat all year round to prevent a low mood. These powerful green foods should especially make an appearance in your diet during the winter. Leafy greens are packed with magnesium, iron, B vitamins, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. They’re also a natural source of omega 3 fats, which many people don’t know. Omega 3 fats help prevent inflammation, disease, and depression. Though the amounts in leafy greens are low since they are fat free, all leafy greens are still a fantastic source of phytonutrients that boost the mood and prevent anxiety. Add them raw or steamed to your dishes, however you can. My favorite way to use them? Green smoothies, of course! They’re also fabulous in soups and as a simple salad too.
Onions are one of the best grounding vegetables you can eat. They’re also high in Vitamin C and VItamin B6, which both influence a good mood and prevent depression. Onions are also a high source of antioxidants, while also helping to lower stress and inflammation. As a bonus, onions are also wonderful for natural detoxification as they help the liver remove harmful agents during digestion and assimilation.
Navel oranges contain 60% of your daily calcium requirements. Calcium is a critical nutrient needed for preventing depression and stress. Most people think dairy is the best source, but in fact, dairy’s acidity actually causes your bones to leach calcium instead of hold onto it! Oranges and leafy greens’ are a much more body-friendly way to get your calcium requirements, and they are full of other nutrients as well. Oranges are especially high in Vitamin B6 and folate, two critical nutrients for preventing a low mood and depression.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, which lowers stress, prevents depression, and tames anxiety. Pumpkin seeds are also incredibly high in protein for such a small amount, with 13 grams of protein per serving. They are also one of the only seeds to promote alkalinity in the body, which fights inflammation due to stress and a poor diet. Add pumpkin seeds to smoothies, have them raw, or top a salad with them. They also make a nice crunchy topping to soups and stews too!
I love avocados! Avocados are so packed with nutrients, there’s just no excuse not to eat a bit everyday, or at least every other day. Yes, they’re high in fat, but trust me, your brain wants you to eat the kind of fat found in avocados, and so does your body! Avocado' is rich in monounsaturated fats, which means they fight hunger and weight gain while enhancing your metabolism. Fat aside, avocados also contain Vitamin B6 to prevent stress and low energy, and they contain more potassium than a banana! The potassium in avocados helps ease anxiety, bloating, constipation, headaches and joint pain. Plus, avocados have protein and fiber as a bonus. I like to have about ¼ of an avocado a day chopped up with a whole tomato over a bed of kale, with cilantro, lime, and black pepper. It’s such a simple, satisfying snack that really helps fight a bad mood fast.
Oh, yes, chocolate is wonderful for you my dears! Cacao, the raw form of chocolate, is your best friend for preventing depression, disease, and stress. Cacao is also a natural beauty food, helping to prevent wrinkles, acne and dull skin. It contains more antioxidants than any food in the world, and is especially high in magnesium, which helps prevent stress, depression, and anxiety. Magnesium can also help either give you energy when you need it, or help you relax. It’s a wonderful nutrient to include in your diet, and cacao is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable ways to consume it. You can stir cacao into your oatmeal, yogurt, or use it in a smoothie. It comes in both nibs and powder, but be sure you buy the raw kind, not the processed kind. Cacao can help bust a bad mood and a chocolate craving, so add it to your diet however you like; around 2 tbsp. a day for the best results.
Coconut’s healthy fats are saturated, which most people shy away from. Yet, raw, organic, extra virgin coconut oil is one of the best foods and fats you can put in your body. Depression aside, it helps fight viruses and illness, which peak high in the winter months. Not only that, but coconut’s fats also help to prevent a low mood from stress, inflammation, dry skin, and even high cholesterol. Add a tablespoon to your smoothies, use it to cook with, stir it in oatmeal, or just eat it off the spoon. However you take it, your body will thank you over and over again for adding it to your diet. The liver immediately uses the fats in coconut oil to rid your body of harmful toxins, and it helps repair the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
10. Wild Alaskan Salmon
Salmon is well known as a top superfood to add to your diet, but be sure you choose wild Alaskan salmon as the only kind you buy. Farmed salmon and Pacific salmon can be extremely high in mercury and full of other toxic chemicals. However, Wild Alaskan salmon is especially wonderful for your body, low in mercury, and helps prevent depression due to its impressive amino acid profile. Eat salmon however you prefer, but be sure to include it at least once a week for the best results. It’s high in Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and it contains almost 21 grams of serving per 4 ounces. Fish has been linked to preventing depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, anemia, and heart disease, making it a top food to include in your diet if you eat animal protein.
Did you know that broccoli contains 5 grams of protein and 76% of your daily Vitamin C requirements in just one cup? It’s a fantastic veggie to eat if you’re not already. Sure, broccoli seems boring to many, but lightly steam it with some coconut oil and a crack of black pepper and lemon and it’s just amazing! Broccoli is also one of the highest sources of Vitamin B6. VItamin B6 should be included in the diet of anyone who is prone to depression and anxiety. It helps relax and give you steady energy at the same time. I suggest eating broccoli steamed, but not burnt to a crisp, which eliminates most of its nutrients. Just don’t eat it raw unless you’re a pro at eating raw veggies. First timers can experience digestive distress if noshing on it raw in large amounts.
The humble banana is also your BFF if you have anxiety tendencies, or depression. Yes, bananas are high in sugar, but they’re actually lower in sugar than other fruits like pineapples, red apples, dates, cherries, and raisins. Bananas are especially high in fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, and tryptophan. The fiber helps slow down your blood sugar and provide a steady flow of carbohydrates through your body during digestion. It also helps promote healthy bowel movements. The potassium in bananas helps combat an upset stomach, beats bloating and joint pain, and as you now know, the B6 is a top anxiety busting vitamin to eat. Bananas can be eaten any way you like, but they’re easiest to digest if they have a few brown spots on them. As the starches break down into sugar when they ripen, they become much easier to digest, and assimilate.
Almonds are one of my favorite nuts, but if you want to get technical, they’re actually a seed. No matter what they are, almonds are jam-packed with nutrients. Let’s start with their protein content, which is around 7 grams per ¼ cup for only 160 calories. Protein is such a wonderful nutrient to eat, and it’s best to get it from plant foods. During winter, inflammation can set in due to less exposure to sunlight, more inactivity, and typically eating more cooked and heavier foods for comfort. It’s important to eat as many plant-based foods as possible to prevent inflammation. Almonds are a top source of plant protein you’ll want to include, and a delicious one at that! They contain Vitamin E, which is a top antioxidant to help prevent inflammation, and even wrinkles, along with promoting clear skin. Almonds' healthy fats are mostly monounsaturated, which also makes them a wonderful slimming and filling food, like avocados. They also have a good amount of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins. Be sure to include them every day or every other day for best results. The healthiest form is raw, organic, and unsalted almonds. This exposes you to the most nutrients, no added salt or oils, and no pesticides and fertilizers.
Another nut to keep on your radar all year, but especially in winter, is walnuts. I love to eat a few walnuts with an orange as a delicious and mood-boosting winter snack. Walnuts have more omega 3 fatty acids than any other tree nut, and they contain melatonin. Melatonin is the natural hormone your body produces to help you sleep and wake up at regular, optimal times each day. During winter months, our natural melatonin levels can become unbalanced due to a lack of sun. Over time, poor sleep, or a bad sleep schedule can actually cause depression, even if you get enough rest. Melatonin is also an important antioxidant to prevent aging and stress. Add walnuts to your diet and watch your sleep turn around quickly. I bet you’ll also notice less joint inflammation and a low mood thanks to that amazing omega 3 content they have. Again, choose raw, unsalted, and organic nuts for the healthiest choice possible.
15. Chia Seeds
Lastly, chia seeds are a fantastic, magical little seed to include in your diet if you suffer from the winter blues. They contain a huge amount of magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, fiber, omega 3 fats and iron. Just a tiny amount is all you need to see huge effects in no time. One of the best features about chia seeds is that they have an incredible ability to fill you up and energize you for a long time. This can prevent dips in energy due to too much caffeine, sugar, or poor quality foods in your diet. Include some in your morning meal for the best results .Since they are tasteless, they can be used anywhere and add a nice crunchy texture too.
Try to include most of these foods in your diet each week if you can. Not only will your mood improve, but so will your skin, weight, energy, digestion, and your heart condition. It’s also best to eliminate sugar, alcohol, energy drinks, refined foods, processed foods, and all junk food from your diet for the best results. These foods aren’t just unhealthy for you, but they also contribute to addiction, depression, and overeating. Do you eat any of these winter foods to beat the blues? What’s your favorite?