5 Best Eating Habits to Fight Seasonal Depression

If you are someone who experiences depression or depressive symptoms that seem to sync up with the changing seasons, you may have seasonal depression, or what is also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD usually occurs in the winter months, with symptoms often beginning in late fall as the days get shorter and the weather getting colder, lasting until the following spring or summer. Although less common, the reverse can also occur, where this form of depression rears its head in the spring or summer, subsiding in the fall and winter.

Common symptoms of SAD include feelings of sadness, moodiness, low or sluggish energy, difficulty concentrating on daily tasks, and a general feeling of hopelessness. While SAD is characterized by a propensity for these symptoms to resolve with the change of season, the cyclical nature of this mental health condition can be difficult to cope with each year.

There is no simple and direct cure to treat this condition. (And if you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with a particularly severe case of SAD, it’s imperative that you see a healthcare professional to discuss an effective treatment plan that may incorporate therapy or even medication.) With that said, there are healthy ways to help cope with the symptoms associated with SAD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, exercising regularly, spending time outdoors, getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet can help you manage SAD symptoms.

“While there is no single diet that will help you avoid seasonal depression, there are some foods and tips you can incorporate to help prevent your symptoms,” he says. Amy Goodson, MS, DR, CSSD, LDthe author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Council.

Read on for some dietitian-recommended eating habits you can incorporate into your daily routine to help deal with seasonal depression as it arises.

Eat more foods rich in vitamin D


While it’s a crucial vitamin, we’re more likely to lose vitamin D when we spend more time indoors, something that becomes especially common as the days get shorter and temperatures drop.

“One of the main reasons we experience seasonal depression is a lack of sunlight and vitamin D activation,” says Goodson.

“Research has shown that people who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to be depressed, and there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and specific mood disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder,” he says. Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFTY Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFTalso known as the twins of nutrition.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is recommended that adults consume around 600 micrograms of vitamin D per day.

“Foods like cow’s milk, fatty fish like salmon and trout, and eggs,” Goodson suggests, if you’re looking for easy sources of vitamin D. For plant sources of vitamin D, you can also find vitamin-fortified orange juice. D at your local supermarket.

However, getting enough vitamin D is still difficult to achieve through food sources alone. So if possible try to spend some time in the sunniest part of the day. Plus, you can make sure you’re getting your daily dose of this vitamin by also trying a vitamin D supplement.

Get plenty of protein at each meal

According to Nutrition Twins, consuming enough protein throughout the day can help you manage the symptoms that accompany seasonal depression.

“Protein increases the body’s feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, so it’s important to get a consistent boost throughout the day,” the Nutrition Twins state. “Eating protein with meals also helps keep energy levels stable, preventing the blood sugar dips that trigger mood swings.”

Twins recommend around 20 grams of protein per meal, if possible. However, this can sometimes be challenging when you’re on the go, especially when you factor in the other food groups. If this sounds like you, know that protein doesn’t always have to serve as the star of your entrée and consider including it in your meals as a side dish or added ingredient to top off your entrée.

“Some ideas for getting protein in your meals are eggs or Greek yogurt with your cereal or toast for breakfast, beans and chicken in your salad for lunch, and chicken or shrimp in your pasta for dinner,” recommend Nutrition Twins.

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Limit your intake of processed foods and added sugars

sugary junk food

“Simple sugars often found in processed foods and snack foods can cause a spike in blood sugar, which may make you feel good for a while, but usually leaves you feeling down and out. with a drop in energy later on,” says Goodson. “Those low energy levels can magnify other depression symptoms you may be experiencing.”

Research has found that constant consumption of added sugar and processed foods can have negative effects on your overall mental health. A study published in scientific reports found an association between sugar intake and increased symptoms of depression. Another study of The British Journal of Psychiatry found that participants who regularly consumed higher amounts of sugar and processed foods were more likely to have symptoms of depression. While these studies were not specifically linked to SAD symptoms, these findings suggest that limiting processed foods and sugar may help you manage general symptoms associated with depression, in general.

Eat at least two cups of green leafy vegetables a day.

The Nutrition Twins suggest incorporating at least two servings of leafy green vegetables into your diet each day.

“These vegetables are a good source of folate, and research shows that low folate levels are linked to depression,” says Nutrition Twins. It is speculated that this is because “folate deficiency may affect the metabolism of neurotransmitters that are very important for mood, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine,” they continue.

“Any leafy greens such as spinach, kale, bok choy, turnip greens, or romaine lettuce, and other sources of folate include kidney beans, oranges, asparagus, avocado, and broccoli,” the twins advise, regarding finding quality food sources. of folate

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Eat smaller meals more often.

A common symptom of SAD is lethargy and a lack of energy during the day. To combat this, Goodson suggests eating smaller, more frequent, high-fiber, protein-enriched meals throughout the day.

“Feeding your body protein and fiber-rich foods often throughout the day can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and therefore your energy levels as well,” says Goodson. “When you don’t have enough fuel or are tired due to lack of nutrients, all of life’s other stressors are often magnified, making it difficult to cope with day-to-day things.”

While you can’t completely avoid seasonal depression, following these eating habits, moving a lot, and spending time with loved ones can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with it.

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