With cold weather comes indoor confinement and irresistible cravings. During the winter months, we tend to feel depressed and hungrier than usual. The ‘winter blues’, otherwise known as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter, ultimately lowering serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter made from tryptophan that is most commonly found in the brain and GI tract and plays a role in controlling mood. This ‘feel good’ chemical has been linked to studies involving depression, obesity, and Parkinson’s disease. According to WebMD, SAD affects twenty-five million Americans and can be characterized by symptoms such as depression, frequent napping, low self-esteem, irritability, shyness, and panic attacks. The winter blues may leave in a slump, feeling hopeless and sluggish, but beating the blues is easy with the right foods!
Tryptophan, the amino acid that synthesizes serotonin, is found in many foods also high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Eating foods high in tryptophan could potentially have an effect on serotonin levels and ultimately, your mood. To get your tryptophan fix and beat those blues incorporate some of these foods into your diet!
Nuts: Nuts and seeds have high levels of tryptophan as well as protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats. These tiny nutritional powerhouses make a perfect on-the-go snack and are a perfect topping for salads, fish, chicken and oatmeal.
Turkey: Turkey is one of the most abundant sources of tryptophan available. It is rich in the serotonin boosting amino acid and protein. Deli turkey tends to be high in sodium, so be sure to choose a low to no sodium option when purchasing it!
Eggs: Who doesn’t love a delicious omelet in the morning? Starting your day off with eggs is a great way to help boost your mood and keep a smile on your face all day long. Egg yolks are packed with tryptophan and tyrosine, an amino acid used to synthesize protein.
Salmon: Salmon is not only filled with omega-3’s and monounsaturated fats, but tryptophan as well! This protein rich fish makes a delightful dinner meal or salad addition.
Tofu: Vegetarians and vegans rejoice! Tryptophan is commonly found in tofu and soy products.
Along with Tryptophan, Eating foods high vitamin D could help prevent SAD. Seasonal affective disorder can be linked with lack of sunlight, which means less environmental vitamin D absorption. Increasing your dietary intake of vitamin D in the winter can help replace your daily dose of sunlight through food. Pork, tuna, salmon, eggs, milk, mushrooms, and orange juice are all great sources of vitamin D to help ‘D’-feat your winter blues.