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Combat The Winter Blues

With colder months and getting darker sooner, the winter blues tend to kick in. But did you know that there are certain foods that can help your mood?

Adjust your diet this winter and improve your mood. 

The winter blues can be difficult to navigate, it can also show up as seasonal affective disorder or depression. This is labeled “seasonal” because there are a number of seasonal changes that are associated with impacting mood, physically. 

The weather and light changes in winter are thought to impact serotonin levels (which is the hormone that is associated regulating mood amongst other functions in the body), as well as an overall lack of Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin, also associated with mood, immune and other functions). 

 

What is the Connection Between Food and Mood?

Food has a way of making people feel “good”. Other than the fact that it tastes great and gives us the nutrition we need, there are certain foods that end up being craved and those can influence our mood, appetite and how our body moves. 

There is research that shows that certain foods can affect the mood by triggering production of certain hormones or chemicals. 

One main one is serotonin. This is a hormone/neurotransmitter that is released after eating carbohydrates (such as fruit, dairy, starches, and sugars) that enhances calmness, improves mood, and lessens depression. 

Others include dopamine and norepinephrine. These two hormones are released after eating protein (such as meat, poultry, dairy, and legumes) and help to enhance mental concentration and alertness. 

Therefore, if we can choose foods that enhance these “mood regulators”, it can be helpful to decrease some of the winter blues we sometimes feel. 


What Dietary Adjustments Can Help Combat Winter Blues?

Eat wisely, and be more conscious of what you are consuming. 

This means, pushing away the sweets and choosing higher fibre foods instead. Eating essential carbohydrates that are healthful can help stimulate serotonin. Things that are high in processed sugars, raise blood sugar and cause spikes, which can make your energy crash. When this happens, you don’t want to just rely on caffeine either. Instead, choose foods that will sustain your energy through the day and limit coffee to after a meal. 

Eating enough protein throughout the day (at every meal) helps to work with the essential carbohydrates (from whole grains, fruits and vegetables), to create overall balance and keep your system running. 

In general:

🌾 Eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables

🥜 Get enough protein (nuts, seeds, lean meats, legumes or fish)

☕ Limit caffeine to 1-2 times a day and only after meals

🍭 Limit sugar intake, sweets, treats, and sugar-filled drinks

☀️ Choose low fat dairy or consider a Vitamin D supplement.


What Foods Should I Pick?

Within each of the categories, let’s detail some foods that are good to choose. It’s a good idea to get variety from each group to ensure you are getting all the needed essential nutrients that are helpful (fibre, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, essential fats, etc.).

Carbohydrates—high in fibre:

  • Oats
  • Oatmeal or fortified cereals
  • Bulgur
  • Breads - sprouted grain, whole grain, rye
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta

Proteins—lower in saturated fat and easy to digest:

  • Nuts and/or nut butters (walnuts, cashews, and almonds are particularly great)
  • Seeds such as flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds
  • Legumes or Pulses (including black-eyed peas and soybeans)
  • Lentils
  • Lean meats (eg. turkey, lean beef, chicken)
  • Fatty fishes (high in omega-3 and omega-6) such as salmon or mackerel
  • Shellfish: clams, oysters, crab
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat dairy: cottage cheese, yogurt, low-fat milk, almond milk

Fresh fruits:

  • Berries (any type, but blueberries are especially great)
  • Bananas
  • Oranges and citrus fruits

Vegetables:

  • Green leafy vegetables (eg. kale, spinach, swiss chard, etc.)
  • Root vegetables high in colour: carrots or beets
  • Mushrooms
  • Any vegetables including frozen or canned are good!

Note: It is often recommended to take a Vitamin D supplement in the winter months, to combat the loss from direct sunshine. 


Enjoy Your Food and Learn More About Healthful Options Available

While sometimes making dietary changes can be difficult, try to keep a list on hand when shopping. It’s also a good idea to ensure you are looking for options that are delicious and keep the tips above in mind. 

The Holy Crap blends tick many of the boxes on some of the nutrients you need to keep your gut happy as well as your mood. Combining the blend with other food items is an easy and delicious way to keep your winter blues at bay, as much as possible...while also sustaining your energy for the day. 

Ensuring that you have some healthful items as such on hand can be a life (or mood saver). 

Try the blends in combination with our recipes to create amazing dishes including: crackers, dinners, energy bites, cakes, smoothies, and more!


Some recommended recipes to try:


Note: Dietary changes should never be a replacement for medication or therapy, if you are having ongoing issues, please ensure you are always in touch with your doctor as well. 



References

Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-tips-help-ease-winter-blues

WebMD. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/foods-that-fight-winter-depression#1

Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14080-eating-to-lift-your-winter-blues