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Could Food Help with the Winter Blues?

The change of seasons brings more than just a shift in the weather. The colder temperatures and shorter days may also create a darkness of emotions for people with seasonal affective disorder, known as SAD. SAD is a type of depression that often takes hold in late fall or early winter.

Approximately half a million people in the U.S. suffer from SAD, while 10 to 20 percent experience a milder form of winter blues.

Effective treatments include talk therapy, light therapy and antidepressant medications, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Certain foods may be another option.

In fact, one recent study showed that people who ate a modified Mediterranean diet, a type of diet based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean red meats and other healthy foods, showed a significant improvement in depressive symptoms.


So, which foods have mood-boosting potential? Try adding these five healthier choices to your diet.

Blueberries: Snacking on a handful of blueberries or topping cereal with this fruit may bring a quicker smile to your face this winter. That’s because these berries are rich in flavonoids, a plant compound associated with decreased risk of developing depression. Other flavonoid-rich fruits include grapes, citrus fruits and peppers.

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids: Not only are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout and albacore tuna excellent sources of protein, these omega-3-rich seafoods have also been shown to improve depressive symptoms.

Leafy greens: Research shows that a magnesium deficiency can increase symptoms of anxiety and sadness. That’s just one more reason to add high-magnesium super foods like kale and spinach to soups, casseroles and salads.

Asparagus: This stalky vegetable shows promise in helping to manage anxiety. Broil or steam the tips or toss them into a winter soup.

Probiotics: You may be less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms if you eat foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, which both contain probiotics. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and pickles also pack a probiotic punch. If you are considering a dietary supplement probiotic, be sure to consult your health care provider first.

Winter can drag on, but daylight hours gradually increase after Dec. 21. Why not spend your winter trying out new recipes with these mood-boosting foods?