Seasonal Affective Disorder

Nutrition for Seasonal Affective Disorder: Foods to Eat to Fight the “Winter Blues”

September 27, 2023


Many of us experience the so-called “winter blues” as we approach the point of year when daylight hours might seem way too short (you will not be very wrong – when summer ends, they are much shorter). This may involve depressed moods, diminished motivation, trouble focusing, and fluctuations in appetite. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (finally a meaningful acronym), maybe “involved” if you have any of these symptoms throughout the winter.

You are not an isolated case, you know; the good news is that there are tactics you may use, including the Seasonal Affective Disorder diet, to lessen the symptoms of the condition. During the lengthy winter months, you should have several essential mood-enhancing stuff in your kitchen.

What Is SAD?

A particular kind of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is most frequently seen during the winter months (less often, it can be felt in late spring). An individual must fulfill the requirements of depression that have occurred for at least two years during a certain time of year in order to be classified as suffering from SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms include:

  • Low level of energy,
  • Hypersomnia, also known as oversleeping,
  • Eating excessively,
  • Gaining weight,
  • An urge for sweet and fatty meals,
  • Social isolation.

Although SAD can start at any age, the most frequent age range for onset is between 18 and 30.

How Many People Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to several demographic surveys, the overall incidence of SAD ranges from 1% to 10%, with folks residing in northern latitudes having a greater frequency. It is interesting to note that the prevalence of Seasonal Affective Disorder is roughly twice as high in North America as it is in Europe. Although the cause of this gap is not yet established, being in an urban environment is a potential contributing factor.

Additionally, there are several indicators of susceptibility to SAD. It is more prevalent in women than in males, and it is also more common in people with a family background in depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

What Triggers Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Although there are no recognized causes of SAD, recent research in this field has identified three biochemical connections that help experts understand why some symptoms manifest:

  • Melatonin Production in Excess

A hormone called melatonin controls sleep. Serotonin synthesis is enhanced by more dark-filled hours, which makes Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers feel more sleepy than normal. People who experience this believe their circadian rhythm, often known as their biological clock, is out of sync.

  • Serotonin Regulation Problems

An essential neurotransmitter, or kind of chemical messenger in the brain, known as serotonin is involved in the control of mood. According to one study, SAD sufferers had about 5% higher levels of serotonin transporter protein in wintertime than in the summer. Need a translation? Less serotonin is accessible when there are more serotonin transporter proteins, which lowers mood.

  • Low Vit. D 

Vitamin D is thought to have a part in the regulation of serotonin, making the possibility that people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder may make less vitamin D, a nutrient for the regulation of mood, noteworthy. If you are diagnosed with vitamin D insufficiency, you will be prescribed a supplement by a physician for sure.

What Foods Should You Eat to Manage SAD Symptoms?

The three above-mentioned biological links are perhaps the most scientific aspect of comprehension of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but they are crucial to comprehending why specific nutrients are vital in treating symptoms! Nutrition research for SAD is still in its infancy, although there are several foods that can be beneficial.

The top five important nutrients for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder, along with dietary examples, are shown below. They are easy to find in supermarkets and outdoor marketplaces, or, even better – you can choose pre-prepared meals customized for the nutrients you need at that very moment to fight a disorder we talk about here which are delivered to you from online services like Home Chef.

But before that, it is crucial to remember that while a proper diet may aid with symptom relief, it cannot treat seasonal affective disorder. Other approaches to treating SAD, such as light therapy, psychotherapy, and medicine, may have come up in conversation. Speak to your doctor if you would like additional details about these treatment choices. It is best to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder holistically, which involves medical care, nutrition counseling, consistent exercise, yoga, and meditation.

Nutrition for Seasonal Affective Disorder

# 1 Complex Carbohydrates

Not all cravings for carbohydrates should be fully removed just because they are a typical sign of SAD. This is because serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is depleted in those with Seasonal Affective Disorder and lowers mood, is produced by carbs. There is a reason why your body wants those carbohydrates!

Include beans and lentils, nutritious grains, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, or parsnips in your eating habits instead of sugary foods like white bread and candies. These are all excellent sources of complex carbs, and the fiber in them has the added advantage of making us feel filled for longer and reducing cravings.

# 2 Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, often known as pyridoxine, is a crucial vitamin associated with carbohydrates. One of the eight B vitamins, it aids in the transformation of carbohydrates into energy the body can utilize. Vitamin B6 is crucial for the synthesis of serotonin, as you could have inferred from its interaction with carbs.

Animal goods including fowl, tuna, salmon, beef liver, and dairy items like milk and cheese typically include vitamin B6. You can still acquire vitamin B6 from legumes like lentils and beans, carrots, spinach, bran, brown rice, wheat germ, organic sunflower seeds, bananas, oats, and whole-grain flour if you do not consume animal products.

# 3 Tryptophan

Tryptophan, which may sound familiar to you given that it is frequently linked to the post-Thanksgiving turkey coma, is another nutrient abundant in all of these meals. 

A further way to increase serotonin levels and improve mood is through the amino acid tryptophan.

# 4 Vitamin D 

Getting vitamin D from dietary sources, sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, is increasingly more crucial as we are exposed to less sunlight. We could feel down or have a worse mood when our vitamin D levels are low.

Milk substitutes along with fortified milk, fatty fish like salmon, Arctic char, and eggs are excellent sources of vitamin D.

# 5 Omega-3s

Additionally, an excellent supplier of omega-3s for the health of the brain is fish. 

Cortisol, a typical stress hormone, is likewise reduced by omega-3s.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Bottom Line

The symptoms that those with SAD feel are real and should not be dismissed. A certified dietician can assist you in achieving your nutritional objectives if you would rather have a more individualized approach. Do not be afraid to seek help from your doctor, who can decide on the best course of therapy for you if you believe that SAD is having an impact on your everyday life.

Do you occasionally get the “winter blues”? Drop us a comment on social media after you share the article. We would be pleased to hear from you!

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