If you’re suffering from a “blue Christmas,” try eating fewer candy canes and more pomegranates. Adopting a healthier diet might help lift your spirits if you’re suffering from a bout of a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, aptly abbreviated as SAD.
Many people find themselves feeling sad (in the literal sense) during the winter holidays. For some, sadness is a cyclical event related to the change in seasons. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is thought to be triggered by getting less-than-normal sunlight exposure due to shorter days during winter months. This may cause a chemical change in the brain. Among common symptoms of SAD are fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Typical treatments include light therapy, talk therapy and antidepressant medications. But a change in diet may be useful, too.
While some studies have failed to find a specific nutritional intervention that relieves symptoms, other clinical research suggests that foods and specific nutrients that improve clinical depression may also be effective in lifting SAD. Registered dietitians and other nutrition experts often recommend that their patients suffering from SAD experiment with eliminating certain foods and adding healthier foods to see if they feel improvement.
Try fermented foods
To improve the health of your gut microbiome and hopefully part those SAD clouds, try taking a strategic approach to your diet by incorporating more of these foods and healthy habits into your routine. Here’s what the experts suggest.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and yogurt promote the good bacteria in your gut. Naidoo suggests that this can elevate certain brain chemicals that may help relieve depression.
Eat more berries & leafy greens
These are good choice because they are loaded with antioxidants and other brain-friendly nutrients, according to Naidoo. Additionally, a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that frequently of eating berries and other fruits was associated with greater psychological well-being and less depression.
Naidoo also claims that vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula, collard greens are great for safeguarding your mental health and supporting cognitive function.
Snack on nuts & seeds
According to Naidoo, walnuts are particularly beneficial for brain health because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid needed for the production of the mood-stabilizing hormone serotonin.
“Think wintertime’s warming spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger,” says Naidoo.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, in particular, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that protects the brain.
“Take [turmeric] with a pinch of black pepper to improve absorption,” suggests Naidoo.
Olives, olive oil, all sorts of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish are all in line with a Mediterranean style of eating.
“Most people know that what you eat can affect your weight, your heart and risk for diabetes, but not as many realize how much diet can affect depression,” says Bill Bradley, RD, president of MediterraneanLiving.com.