It happens every year. So many of us suffer from those winter blues. The days grow shorter and colder and all we want to do is bundle up under the covers and sleep. But for some people those winter blues are escalated into a more serious form of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) begins in late fall and ends in February before spring.
So what causes SAD? Some experts believe that the increased hours of darkness affect a person's serotonin and melatonin levels (chemicals that affect mood). Others believe that vitamin D levels are disrupted due to reduced sunlight during the winter. Studies have shown that light therapy has proven successful in helping with SAD. In addition, just as with many illnesses, food can be a helpful aid in alleviating the symptoms of SAD.
3 foods that help ward off the winter blues:
1. Vitamin D is essential to maintaining our health and immune systems. Some studies suggest that as many as 7 out of 10 Americans don't get enough of this "sunshine vitamin" particularly during the winter. Studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiencies can contribute to osteoporosis, depression, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Foods that contain Vitamin D are certain fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, fish oils, fortified milk and egg yolks.
2. Studies have shown that omega - 3 fatty acids may be helpful in maintaining a healthy emotional balance.
Unfortunately, our bodies cannot make these essential omega-3 fatty acids so we have to eat them. Oily, fatty fish are the best sources of omega- 3s (such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, anchovies). Flaxseed, hemp, canola and walnut oils are all sources of alpha- linolenic (ALA) omega-3 acid.
3. In the winter and cold months many people crave carbohydrates. This may be due to the decrease in serotonin and carbs promote the production of serotonin, or the "feel good" chemical. This is why many people eat candy or chips when they are feeling sad. Instead of not eating carbs, substitute the bad carbs for good carbs.
Healthier carb options are lentils, beans, quinoa, edamame, millet, buckwheat, barley, couscous, sprouted whole-grain bread, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
Try to look past the coldness and darkness that the winter months bring. Instead, focus on the joy, laughter and happiness that these months provide as well. These months are filled with special holidays that bring family and friends together. All of the happiness and love that is shared brings so much warmth into my heart and I hope that it does yours as well. When I think of winter, the cold and dark aren't the first things that come to mind. I think of my family sitting around the table during thanksgiving telling stories and laughing, the smell of grandma's delicious homemade pumpkin pie being made, family cookie exchanges, little kids running around the house on Christmas Eve, going to cut down our christmas tree with my family, going sledding down my aunt's huge backyard and drinking hot cocoa by the fire. These happy traditions are what I think of when I think of the winter. Everyone has their thoughts about winter but instead of focusing on the negative, let's make a point to remember all the happiness that the winter brings as well!