It’s that time of year when the air is getting cooler; the leaves are starting to turn various shades of red and gold, and our days are getting increasingly shorter. No more days lounging on the beach soaking up that warm, feel-good sunshine. By now most of us are in the full swing of work or school and may already be dragging our feet just to make it through the day. The stress of daily life compounded by the ever decreasing amount of sunlight may be just the combination of factors to bring your mood crashing down. Instead of getting cranky with your family and friends or wallowing in bed for no known reason, there are things you can do about it; specifically things of the edible sort.
Research has shown that there are some foods that are known to have mood-boosting benefits. One nutrient in particular at the forefront of this research is omega-3 fatty acids. Inadequate consumption of omega-3’s (which let’s face it, most Americans are guilty of) has been associated with depression. An easy way to increase your intake of omega-3’s is to add twice weekly servings of fatty fish, like salmon, herring, and tuna, to your meal plan. If you aren’t a seafood eater, there are some plant-based alternatives. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and can easily be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and even baked goods. Walnuts are another good option.
What else may you be missing that could boost your mood? The nutrient that sunshine is known for of course – vitamin D! This is yet another nutrient that many Americans are getting too little of. Those with a deficiency in vitamin D (which can be determined by a blood test) are at a higher risk of depression than those who have normal blood levels. Here fatty fish get rave reviews once again for their vitamin D content. Other foods to up your intake include dairy products, eggs, and mushrooms.
So if you are feeling out of sorts lately, don’t just chalk it up to the rundown of daily living; you may be running low on some key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and could benefit from some of these good-mood foods!
By: Christina Molinski, MS, RD
Baghai TC et al. Major depressive disorder is associated with cardiovascular risk factors and low Omega-3 Index. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;72(9):1242-7.
Lee DM et al. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with depression among community-dwelling European men. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Oct;25(10):1320-8.