There’s no doubt food affects our mood and state of mind. Don’t believe me? Just try eating two Big Mac combos and then tell me how you feel. In that case it may be easy to link your food choices to a foul mood (and a belly ache), but your regular everyday dietary choices can have an effect on your mood as well.
Winter is a particularly vulnerable time, the days are short, the wind is cold, and beach umbrellas feel oh so far away. Modifying your diet during this time to ramp up certain nutrients can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the Winter months. Even if you don’t have SAD, everyone can use a little mood boost every now and then.
Nutrients To Focus On
This group of Vitamins govern how we process and receive energy from food and they’re depleted by stress. A deficiency in B vitamins, especially B12, has been linked to poor mood. You can take a B-complex supplement during the Winter months or get it from plant-based sources including leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes. Additionally, many products such as tofu, tempeh, or non-dairy milk are fortified with hard to get B12.
Like most minerals it’s found in the soil, but once inside the body it acts as a master antioxidant. It protects the fat in our cell membranes from oxidizing which keeps everything functioning properly. Selenium also has a role in thyroid hormone health, affecting our metabolism and rate of reactions within our body. Sources include grains, nuts (especially brazil nuts), fruits and vegetables.
Many people are deficient in this mineral and don’t realize. Processing, poor soil quality, and stress all deplete magnesium. Interestingly, magnesium is part of the chlorophyll molecule, so leafy greens are a good bet to get this mineral, as are nuts and seeds (especially sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin).
Omega-3 fatty acids are usually in the news for their heart health benefits, but they can also help those with depression! Omega-3’s are part of our nerve conduction system and they keep signals like our thoughts and emotions moving smoothly. They also help produce anti-inflammatory chemicals and inflammation is linked to a range of chronic diseases. Plant-based sources are a little bit tricky to find, but you can get them from walnuts and flaxseeds.
Nutrition is a complex subject and there are so many more nutrients I could talk about that are linked with mood. In general, the best dietary tip I can offer for mental health is to eat a variety of whole, fresh foods. You’re less likely to get deficiencies or imbalances that way, and it helps keep your blood sugar stable (also linked with mood). So this Winter, if you start feeling down, consider heading to the grocery store instead of a pharmacy to nourish your body and improve your mood!