The Best Foods to Fend Off SAD, According to Experts

If you’re suffering from a “blue Christmas”, try eating less cane sugar and more pomegranates. Adopting a healthier diet can help lift your spirits if you suffer from a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, aptly abbreviated as SAD.

Many people feel sad (literally) during the winter holidays. For some, sadness is a cyclical event associated with the change of seasons. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is thought to be triggered by exposure to less sunlight than usual, due to the shorter days during the winter months. This can cause a chemical change in the brain. Common symptoms of SAD include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Typical treatments include light therapy, talk therapy, and antidepressant medications. But a change in diet can also be helpful.

While some research has failed to find a specific nutritional intervention that alleviates symptoms, other clinical research suggests that foods and certain nutrients that improve clinical depression may also be effective at removing SAD. Registered dietitians and other nutritionists often advise their patients suffering from SAD to try eliminating certain foods and adding healthier foods to see if they feel better.

“When discussing depression with my patients, I often use the expression ‘blue gut’, which is a carefree name for the very serious relationship between depression and your gut,” she says. Uma Naidoo, Dr.He is a nutritional psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Food affects the chemical messages that bacteria send from your gut to your brain, which can make you feel exhausted and depressed or energized and invigorated.”

To improve the health of your gut microbiome and hopefully disperse those SAD clouds, try taking a strategic approach to your diet by incorporating more of these foods and healthy habits into your routine. Here’s what experts recommend.

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Try fermented foods

A kind of local Korean food

Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and yogurt support the good bacteria in your gut. Naidoo suggests this may raise certain brain chemicals that can help alleviate depression.

Eat more berries and leafy greens

According to Naidoo, these are a good choice because they’re loaded with antioxidants and other brain-friendly nutrients. Additionally, a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that frequently eating strawberries and other fruits is associated with greater psychological well-being and less depression.

Naidoo also claims that vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula, and kale are great for maintaining your mental health and supporting cognitive function.

Snack with nuts and seeds

According to Naidoo, walnuts are particularly beneficial for brain health as they contain tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for the production of the mood-stabilizing hormone serotonin.

Increase turmeric (and other spices)

turmeric tea

“Think of the warming spices for winter: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger,” says Naidoo.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that protects the brain.

“To take [turmeric] with a pinch of black pepper to increase absorption,” says Naidoo.

Follow the Mediterranean diet

Olives, olive oil, all kinds of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fish are suitable for a Mediterranean diet.

“Most people know that what you eat can affect your weight, heart and diabetes risk, but many don’t realize how much diet can affect depression,” she says. Bill Bradley, R.D. President of

Studies have shown that switching from a diet of highly processed foods to a Mediterranean diet significantly reduces the risk of depression in men, women, and even older adults.

“Diets high in ultra-processed foods increase the risk of depression, so the combination of removing processed foods and increasing nutrient-dense foods doubles the mood-enhancing effects of the Mediterranean diet,” says Bradley.

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Pass the sugar plums and strive for balance

family having a healthy holiday meal

Avoid these bountiful Christmas candies, cookies, and sugary drinks. at the holiday buffet (or just take a small bite). These treats can exacerbate a bad mood.

Studies have found that high sugar intake has a negative impact on psychological health and can contribute to and worsen depressive symptoms in general.

“Eating sugary foods can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and can make you feel like you’re traveling on a roller coaster instead of a smooth road,” warns the registered dietitian nutritionist. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, CDNand its author Read Before You Eat: Move You From Label to Table.

Also, be aware of the eating habits common among SAD sufferers. An analysis of six studies in the journal Frontiers in Psychology noted that compared with healthy patients, SAD patients tended to consume significantly larger meals late in the day and snack more in the evening. They also exhibited more frequent binge eating and emotionally driven eating habits. That’s why it’s important to avoid skipping meals or restrictive, unrealistic diets, Taub-Dix says.

“Eat regularly, and it’s true that you’ll feel more balanced when you balance your meals,” says Taub-Dix.

Choose carbohydrates but be careful

Think about it: When we’re not feeling well, we often crave “comfort” foods, foods we were given as children, foods that make us feel better, foods that don’t require much effort to digest and assimilate. Usually, such foods are carbohydrates. While fat and protein take a long time to break down in our digestive system, carbohydrates are broken down faster.

“While a lot of people have negative things to say about carbs, carbs can actually make you feel good if you eat the right kinds of carbs and in the right amounts for your body,” says Taub-Dix. “From eating carbohydrates, you’ll get the most energy and feel better. Carbs have a powerful effect on serotonin, a chemical in the brain that has a powerful effect on both emotion and eating, thus creating a calming sensation.”

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Get the calming flow of serotonin from slow-burning carbohydrates like whole-grain bread, potatoes and pasta, which contain fiber and protein, rather than sugary carbohydrates that can quickly lower your mood.

final thoughts

Remember that not all diets are created equal. Foods that can bring happiness to someone with SAD can bring heartburn, headaches, and worse, a collapsed feeling to another SAD sufferer. Everyone reacts differently, which is why Naidoo believes that “the best care is personalized to each person’s individual needs”.

Naidoo always gives two more pieces of advice to SAD sufferers to help ease the winter blues. First, it highlights the importance of developing healthy relationships. Interacting with friends and family and being involved in the community are proven remedies for depressive symptoms. Additionally, it highlights the valuable impact of going out.

“A 10-minute time outside provides about 80% of your daily vitamin D needs, which boosts your mood,” says Naidoo.

Another critical thing to keep in mind is; Although making adjustments to your diet can sometimes help relieve SAD symptoms, eating healthy is only part of the solution to finding relief. People with prominent and long-lasting symptoms should inform their doctor so they can develop a well-rounded treatment plan that may include speech therapy or medication in addition to dietary changes.


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