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What Can a Depressed Person Eat in Winter? 9 Tips

What Can a Depressed Person Eat in Winter
Learn about 9 ways to beat winter depression with food

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is often seen in the winter. If you are experiencing the winter blues, eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables can help improve your mood.

9 tips for beating winter depression with food

1. Eat complex carbs

Complex carbohydrates from whole foods can increase the availability of serotonin in your brain, which can boost your winter mood. Examples of complex carbohydrates include:

  • Whole grains
  • Brown rice
  • Rolled oats
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Quinoa

2. Eat lean protein

Protein consumption has been linked to higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, brain chemicals that play a role in mood, motivation, alertness, and concentration. These chemicals are formed from tyrosine, which can be found in protein-rich foods such as:

  • Fish:
    • Freshwater fish
    • Saltwater fish
    • Sardines
    • Mackerel
    • Herring
    • Salmon
    • Tuna
  • Lean beef and pork
  • Skinless white meat of chicken and turkey
  • Low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese)
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

3. Eat healthy fats

Fish, nuts, and seeds also contain healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. According to some studies, regular consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of depression.

4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which can combat winter depression. These nutrients can have a positive effect on your mental health:

5. Follow the Mediterranean diet

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help you deal with winter depression because the diet emphasizes foods such as fatty fish, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fruits and vegetables. These foods keep your sugar levels stable, which can reduce anxiety and enhance mood.

6. Get enough vitamin D

Some experts believe that low levels of vitamin D can lead to an increased risk of depression. Although winter may allow you to get enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure, you can try to get enough vitamin D a day from food if possible. 

Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel), red meat, egg yolks, mushroom, and fortified foods. Ask your doctor if supplements are right for you.

7. Avoid refined carbs

Refined carbs can cause your sugar levels to spike and drop, which can negatively affect your mood and make you more prone to winter depression. Avoid foods made from refined flour such as white bread and baked goods such as cakes and cookies

8. Avoid added sugars

While eating sweets can provide you with an instant mood boost, they can also lead to a sugar crash and make you feel worse than before. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks such as:

  • Soda
  • Fruit drinks
  • Sport drinks
  • Sweetened coffee
  • Muffins
  • Puddings

9. Combine carbs and protein

One of the best ways to beat winter depression through food is to pair carbohydrates and protein together. Here are some meal and snack ideas:

  • Whole-grain bread with roast turkey and tomato slices 
  • Oatmeal with nonfat milk and a sliced banana
  • High-fiber cereal and a handful of nuts and dried fruits
  • Turkey, chicken or ham sandwich on whole wheat bread, with lettuce and tomatoes
  • Nuts and dried fruits
  • Apple with nut butter
  • Whole wheat bread and peanut butter
  • Fruit and low-fat cheese
  • Whole-grain tortilla with beans topped with plain Greek yogurt
  • Salmon on a bed of brown rice with fresh lemon juice
  • Quinoa salad with chicken, grapes, and almonds
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