While we've likely all experienced feeling a little lackluster during the winter months, seasonal affective disorder or SAD can be much more intense. Symptoms include serious fatigue, a lack of motivation or disinterest that is more than just a slump, trouble with concentration, and a tendency to avoid social situations. Like the seasonal changes, what you eat can really have an impact on your mood. We've rounded up the best foods for seasonal affective disorder that can be a great complement to other treatments.
Often a go-to snack for being a great source of nutrients, bananas are high in tryptophan as well as vitamin B6, both of which can have calming properties. Plus, they're a great source of potassium, which can help to release muscle tension and cramping and are a great source of natural sugar to give your body a more sustainable boost. They're awesome blended into a smoothie, like this peanut butter banana smoothie or made into a healthy snack like these 4-ingredient banana oatmeal breakfast cookies.
This is one we're super psyched about! In addition to being mood-boosting just because it tastes great, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which have actually been shown to help reduce stress hormones. Dark chocolate can also help your body increase its dopamine levels, which is a feel-good hormone that can help to quell negative thought patterns and pain. Just be sure to opt for something with at least 75% cocoa content (the darker the better!). We like Hu Vegan Dark Chocolate Bars, or opt for sipping it, like Zimt's Drinking Chocolate.
Because they're so high in omega-3's, fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are excellent for brain health, and therefore your mental health, likely because omega-3 fatty acids help to boost feel-good hormones like serotonin. If you'd prefer not to eat fish, flaxseed, hemp, and walnut oils are all great sources of omega-3, too.
It's super common to crave carbs when you're feeling down, but while cookies and chips might sound awesome in the moment, they can leave you with an energy slump after that initial mood boost. Instead, a complex carb like popcorn provides your body with the carbs needed to create mood-balancing serotonin while providing more sustained energy. If you're needing a sweet treat, you can also make your own healthy kettle corn or drizzle it with a little dark chocolate and sea salt.
Because your gut health is so closely linked to your mental health, probiotics are a great way to help support your mood and mental well-being, and have even been found to be helpful in calming symptoms of anxiety and depression. Fortified kefir is also a good source of Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, which can help to manage symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Plus, because its drinkable, its an easy way to get nutrients. Try it in water kefir soda or try it in a chocolate chair kefir smoothie.
High in healthy fats, avocados are a source of other great nutrients as well. They have tryptophan and folate to help calm and promote relaxation, as well as B6 to naturally boost energy. For something a little different, try a Creamy Avocado Banana Green Smoothie, or enjoy some Fudgy Dark Chocolate Avocado Cookies.
A produce go-to this time of year, sweet potato is another healthy carb that helps to sustain your energy while also supporting the production of healthy hormones like serotonin. They're also high in folate, an essential nutrient for mental health. So load up on some mashed sweet potatoes or bake up some sweet potato fries.
A comforting bowl of oatmeal does more than just warms the soul. It's another great carb that helps to boost serotonin levels, and is also a source of tryptophan. Plus, you can boost the power of your oatmeal by stirring in omega-3 rich ground flaxseeds or topping your bowl with banana.