February 09, 2016

Seasonal Affective Disorder Diet: Foods That Boost Serotonin

Winter blues can leave you not only down in the dumps but also watching the needle on your bathroom scale creep up as you comfort yourself with carbs.

Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this draggy feeling is caused by a lack of light in the winter. This dim outlook results in lower levels of serotonin a mood-enhancing chemical that makes you feel good and puts the brakes on hunger.

When your serotonin level dips, you’re more likely to reach for high-calorie premium ice cream, or leftover Christmas cookies as a pick-me-up. These treats can provide a pop of feel-good energy, but you’ll quickly crash when the sugar rush wears off.

To shoo away your SAD tendencies, try eliminating all white foods from your diet for at least two weeks – flour, sugar, rice, potatoes – anything that’s white. Then, cut back on coffee (which suppresses that good serotonin you so desperately need).

10 Energy-Boosting Foods:

Instead, have these energy-boosting foods on hand when the urge for sweets strikes:

  • Popcorn
  • Oatmeal (original or steel-cut)
  • Nuts (just a few!)
  • Eggs for omelets
  • Peanut butter
  • Prewashed veggies
  • Fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and bread
  • Deli turkey
  • Cottage cheese

In addition to eating right, treatment for SAD can include therapy using special lighting, exercise, and staying connected to others.

Find a trusted source with whom to talk, such as an Employee Assistance Program counselor, mental health therapist, clergy or a close friend. During the winter, we tend to isolate and hibernate. That’s good for bears – not for humans.

Jim Sennett, clinical manager for the behavioral health program at Baptist Health Louisville

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