Winter’s coming in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means less hours of daylight. Many people dread this time of year because of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As usual, the Medical Establishment is quick to prescribe bone-damaging drugs to “treat” this condition; but today, you’ll learn that you don’t have to turn to toxic drugs to lift your mood this winter. I also bring you research that shows SAD is (not surprisingly) over-diagnosed.
Today we’re going to explore eight delicious foods that help keep depression and sadness at bay. And since they’re all Foundation Foods, they’re excellent for your bones as well!
But first, let’s take a closer look at SAD, and what scientists have discovered about its prevalence.
SAD Is Not Nearly As Common As You’ve Been Led To Believe
When researchers at Oregon State University analyzed comprehensive data from 762 participants in two different states, they found that the impact of winter weather on mood has been greatly overestimated.
Participants completed self-report measures of their symptoms from 10 to 19 times, and this data were compared to the local weather conditions. Interestingly, they concluded that:
“Neither time of the year or recent seasonally linked meteorological conditions were powerful influences on depressive symptoms experienced by community populations in relevant geographic regions. Prior studies may have overestimated the prevalence and significance of seasonal variation in depressive symptoms for the general population.” 1 (emphasis added)
Instead, lead researcher David Kerr points out that feeling a bit more cooped up and “down” during the winter is not the same as clinical depression.1 Yet, as mentioned earlier, doctors treat this response to winter weather with anti-depressant drugs, just as they would long-term clinical depression.
Kerr further notes that those who have symptoms of SAD should certainly seek help, but adds that,
“…there are many effective treatments for depression, whether or not it is seasonal.”
I agree, and today we’re going to look at “many effective treatments” for SAD that are wonderfully simple, and, more importantly, help you avoid bone-damaging anti-depressants.
How Foods Help Lift Depression
It comes down to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain and in the gut. Serotonin is the body’s natural anti-depressant, and its levels can be increased by ingesting key foods and nutrients that contain its precursor and various co-factors.
Serotonin has only one precursor that’s present in the diet: an amino acid called L-tryptophan. In addition, certain foods facilitate the brain’s manufacture of serotonin by providing vital co-factors obtained through supplementation of magnesium, Vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin B6, and zinc.
The following seven foods are rich in the nutrients required to boost serotonin levels, starting with one of my favorites.
Botanically a fruit, avocados are rich in healthful Omega-3 fats which not only help lift mood; they also increase calcium absorption. Avocados also contain Vitamins C, D, and K, and the trace minerals folate, copper, and boron.
Of course, they are delicious in the classic dish guacamole; but they are also excellent diced and tossed in salads, whizzed into smoothies, or creamed as a basis for dip or sandwich spread. Avocados can also be enjoyed simply sliced with a little lemon or lime juice and sea salt.
This cruciferous vegetable is an affordable, versatile “go-to” vegetable for everyone – from moms with young children to older adults. Broccoli offers multiple health benefits, including a cleansing and energizing effect on the body. Enjoyable cooked or raw, broccoli boasts calcium, boron, Vitamins C and K, and antioxidant flavonoids.
Why not try an avocado-based dip for raw broccoli for a snack this winter?
These delicious nuts are widely available in their raw, unshelled form. Even though they are acidifying, walnuts contain many excellent bone-building nutrients, including a bone-healthy Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Walnuts’ ALA content fights depression in various ways. ALAs preserve the structural integrity of the brain and facilitate signal transduction within the brain. ALAs also decrease inflammation, which is linked to depression. Additionally, ALAs reduce bone-damaging cortisol.
Keep walnuts on hand this fall and add them to plain yogurt, oatmeal (which also helps lift mood, as you’ll see below), and even pesto. There are various types of walnuts – if you live in certain wooded areas of the world, they may be plentiful in your backyard! All types offer similar health benefits.
Quinoa is an alkalizing, gluten-free, protein-rich seed that can be used instead of rice. I also like to eat it in combination with oatmeal to make a more alkalizing breakfast dish.
Quinoa has magnesium and B-complex vitamins, and it’s also a great source of amino acids which, as I mentioned above, are precursors to serotonin. Thanks to its protein content and natural, complex carbohydrates, quinoa stabilizes blood sugar, which is also a key component of a happy mood.
Listed among the Foundation Foods for calcium in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, alkalizing flax seeds are another excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and ALAs. Like quinoa, flax helps stabilize blood sugar.
Try flax seeds finely ground and sprinkled over casseroles, pancakes, or hot cereal. Ground flax also makes a healthful addition to bread and baked goods. Whole flax seeds tend to pass through the human gut undigested, so grinding the seeds first ensures you’ll absorb all the nutrients these healthful seeds have to offer.
6. Sweet Potatoes
The beautiful, orange sweet potato is alkalizing and full of the bone-healthy antioxidant beta-carotene. The flesh contains the important serotonin precursor L-tryptophan. They are high in B6, which is a natural anti-depressant – in fact, many people who suffer from SAD or clinical depression have low levels of B vitamins.
Sweet potatoes also contain magnesium and potassium, crucial minerals for muscle relaxation and the reduction of cortisol and high blood pressure.
Oats are acidifying, but listed as a Foundation Food for manganese, silicon, and B-complex vitamins. Most oats are naturally gluten-free, but check anyway – some oats do have gluten, which has been linked to neurological conditions like depression.
Avoid sugary “instant” oatmeal so instead, cook up a pot of plain oatmeal with a pinch of alkalizing stevia. Why not top it with chopped walnuts for a mood-lifting breakfast?
Greens like spinach and kale are in season during cold weather, making them a perfect choice for combating winter blues. Nearly all greens are high in magnesium, Vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins. Collards, kale, and mustard greens are good sources of bone-building calcium.
Greens come in a vast variety – in addition to spinach and kale, collards, romaine lettuce, chard, dandelion greens, beet greens, and dark green lettuces all come under the heading of greens. Raw or cooked, leafy green vegetables are excellent mood lifters and bone builders.
Don’t let concerns about oxalates or oxalic acid present in some leafy greens, like spinach, deter you. Some laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption, but the reduction is relatively small, and oxalates don’t actually leech calcium from the bones. Spinach contains many valuable nutrients, as you can see; so once again, moderation is key!
Isn’t it good to know that you can manage your seasonal blues with delicious meals and dishes? These truly are “comfort foods”!
If These Foods Are So Effective, Why Hasn’t My Doctor Told Me About Them?
Most doctors are not trained in nutrition. Their training is in assessing symptoms, making a diagnosis, and prescribing a drug to treat the diagnosed condition. Natural, nutritional solutions to health problems are simply not their “realm.”
This means your doctor probably hasn’t told you about another natural, scientifically-backed way to relieve depression either: regular exercise.
Exercise Relieves Even Major Depression, Study Says
It’s long been known that regular exercise relieves depression and lifts your mood. But an insightful study shows that exercise is as effective at relieving even Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in older adults.
After 16 weeks, exercise was so effective that the study authors concluded the following:
“An exercise training program may be considered an alternative to antidepressants for treatment of depression in older persons. Although antidepressants may facilitate a more rapid initial therapeutic response than exercise, after 16 weeks of treatment exercise was equally effective in reducing depression among patients with MDD.” 2
It’s Not Hard To Exercise For Your Bones (And Mood) In The Winter!
It can be challenging to get moving when it’s cold and dark, and inclement weather sets in. The good news is, you can easily exercise indoors with the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System.
Actually, Densercise™ can be done anywhere; but when it’s cold outside, you can comfortably Densercise™ in your own living room . So don’t let the weather keep you from all the benefits of exercise, including depression relief.
Till next time,
1 Kerr, David, et al. “Two Longterm Studies of Seasonal Variation in Depressive Symptoms among Community Participants.” Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013. Vol 151, no 3. Web. http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/41955
2 Blumenthal, J.A., et al. “Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression.” Archives of Internal Medicine. October 25, 1999. 159(19):2349-56. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10547175