This winter I have honestly been in a pretty good mood! I admit, I’ve been one to succumb to the Saskatchewan winter weathers that are super up and down, resulting in some rather up and down moods. As we hibernate from the cold, negative moods and mental health tend to run higher in these winter months. So what’s different for me this year?…. I’m happy because of the positive changes I’ve been making in my life, following my passions, forgetting excuses, and being surrounded by great supportive people.
As well, I continue to focus on feeding my body well as our nutrition is a powerful tool in combating those winter blues – research shows good nutrition is essential for our mental health.
Mood Influences Food Intake
Research has shown that mood and how one feels can influence a person’s food intake. When we are in depressed, negative and stressed mental states we tend to indulge in junk foods high in sugars, fats and salt. This may be related to our focus on the present when we are in negative moods. When we focus on the present we try to make ourselves feel immediate satisfaction leading to us reaching for these comfort foods when we’re down. For me, I gravitate to sweets…
On the other hand, when we feel positive and are in generally good moods, we tend to make healthier food choices. Research suggests this is related to us thinking about future health benefits and focusing more on long term goals when we are in a positive state of mind. When we feel good we eat to benefit our body and mind!
Food Intake Influences Mood
Furthermore, our food and beverage intake can influence our mood and how we feel. We can feed our minds with nutrition to promote good moods and positivity. Whereas, when we starve our brains from proper nourishment we can become fatigued, irritable and impair cognition (for real “hangriness”).
Processed junk foods that are high in refined sugars, salt and fat, often lack nutrients to promote well-being. They may give you a quick feel good satisfaction but are followed by more cravings and feelings of guilt. As well research shows a link between inadequate blood levels of certain vitamins and minerals to depression and other mental health diseases. A healthy balanced diet with variety and adequate nutrients is important for your positive mood!
Some Mood Boosting Foods
Instead of reaching for white refined carbs, snack foods like chips and cookies, processed foods and excess alcohol try incorporating these foods to help you fight off the winter blues!:
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds provide an abundance of mood boosting nutrients including antioxidant Vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber, and amino acids. In particular, walnuts contain essential Omega-3 fatty acids that are important for optimal brain function. Brazil nuts are a rich source of the mineral Selenium. Studies have shown increased rates of depression and anxiety with deficient levels of selenium.
A Variety of Colourful Fruits:
Fruits are a great option if you are craving something sweet. They provide you with healthy energy, antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients to help you naturally feel better. Fruits as part of a healthy diet are associated with decreased risks of disease. Choose from a variety of fruit as each provide unique nutrition profiles.
With variety being limited in winter, take advantage of unsweetened frozen fruits when particular kinds are not in peak season. Be mindful of your portions (up to one cup per serving of most fruits), and avoid fruit juices to decrease sugar loads and blood sugar spikes.
Biologically avocado is a type of fruit, but deserves its own individual mention as its nutritional profile is quite different than other fruits. These versatile creamy nutrient powerhouses are wonderful for protecting the health of your brain as well as overall wellness. They contain healthy monounsaturated fats, folate, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients to help with brain power and feeling good.
Fill up on a variety of high fiber vegetables. They provide your body with vitamins and minerals to support health, prevent disease and help you look and feel good. For example, dark leafy greens such as spinach are good sources of folate, a nutrient integral to brain development and function. Sweet red peppers are bursting with antioxidant Vitamin C that helps fight inflammation and supports your immunity and healthy skin. Craving something crunchy? Fresh raw veggies with hummus or salsa are great options instead of chips and crackers.
Like dark leafy greens, lentils are a good source of folate. Lentils also provide your body with heart healthy plant proteins, soluble fibers, and complex carbohydrates that help stabilize blood sugars and keep you full longer. Check out www.saskpulse.com for great tips, cooking methods and delicious recipes to start incorporating more of these plant proteins into your diet.
If you are not vegetarian or vegan, wild salmon is also known to help you feel great. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids associated with optimal brain function and decreased risk of depression. It is also a healthy source of protein and mood-boosting B vitamins. For a good source of Vitamin D that is linked with increased immunity and decreased negative moods, choose canned salmon with the bones.
Boost Your Mood Naturally
Having a balanced diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, plant-based foods, water, healthy proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates is key to helping you get through the winter slump. Whereas, highly processed convenience foods and excess alcohol has been shown to damage your mood. Continue to nourish your body through these winter months with mood boosting foods and promote optimal health, exercise, spend time with people who build you up and do the things you love to do!
When we are healthy and free of sickness, we feel good, are more active, and we continue to eat better!
- Gardner, M.P., Wonsink, B., Kim J (2014) “Better Moods For Beter Eating: How Mood Influences Food Choice” Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 24, Issue 3, Pgs 320-325
- Davison KM, Ng E, Chandrasekera U, Seely C, Cairns J, Hall L, Sengmueller E, Jaques M, Palmer J, Moore J for
- Dietitians of Canada. Promoting Mental Health through Healthy Eating and Nutritional Care. Toronto: Dietitians of Canada,2012. Access at:www.dietitians.ca/mentalhealth