Tip: Stave off the winter blues by loading up on foods that elevate your mood, fight depression, prevent seasonal affective disorder and add color to the dark, cold days of winter.

By the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group

The holidays have passed, the novelty of the new year is wearing off and the days are cold and dark. For many of us, the winter doldrums bring the winter blues. Don’t wait until spring to add color to your days! Fill your plate with a rainbow of mood-boosting foods to elevate your spirits and bring a blast of color to winter’s whites and greys. The foods you eat have a powerful impact on your mood. When you eat colorful, nutritionally uplifting foods, you can beat the winter blues right at your dining room table.

Eat a Rainbow – Against the backdrop of winter’s greys and whites, a burst of color on your plate enlivens your senses and takes you on a culinary vacation to warmer climes. The color of a food reflects which nutrients it contains, so eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables ensures you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants to keep you energized and buoyant through the dark winter months. Chef Marshal’s Mango-Avocado Salsa offers a rainbow of flavors to brighten up any meal – try it scooped up on blue corn tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to chicken. Incorporate these colorful mood-boosters in your winter meals:

  • Pomegranates
  • Citrus
  • Winter squash
  • Tropical fruits, like mango and pineapple
  • Kale
  • Frozen berries
  • Purple cabbage

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a powerful role in regulating mood and staving off seasonal affective disorder (also known as winter depression.) Your best source of vitamin D is the sun, but during Minnesota winters the sun is too low in the sky and you are too covered up to get adequate vitamin D. To keep your spirits lifted through spring, consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement between October and May, and be sure to consume adequate vitamin D-rich foods, including:

  • Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Fortified milk and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms

Emphasize Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful mood-boosters that can help relieve symptoms of depression, as well as improve heart health and combat inflammation. As an added bonus during the dry winter months, omega-3s also help keep your hair, skin and nails from becoming dry and brittle. Eat 2 to 3 servings of cold water fish per week to keep your mood elevated through the winter. Foods high in omega-3s include:

  • Salmon           
    • Herring
    • Anchovies
    • Sardines
    • Mackerel
    • Halibut
    • Flaxseed
    • Chia seed
    • Walnuts

Boost Your Mood with B Vitamins

Vitamins B6, B12 and folate all play important roles in moderating mood, and low levels are associated with depression. In one study, as little as one cup of cooked, folate-rich spinach per day helped relieve minor depression. Consume a diet full of these vitamin B-rich foods to keep your mood lifted and feel your best:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables – especially dark green vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Whole Grains

Spice Up Your Spirits

Beyond just seasoning your food, spices can also enhance your mood. In recent studies, saffron and curcumin, a compound abundant in turmeric, had significant antidepressant effects in individuals with major depressive disorder. Flavor your food with these powerful mood-boosters:

  • Saffron
  • Turmeric

Indulge in Dark Chocolate

Here’s one to celebrate! Cocoa is rich in polyphenols that improve mood and protect against depression. Choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content and 10 grams of sugar or less—the higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the greater the mood-boosting power. Substitute one and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day for a treat you would normally have eaten so you don’t increase your caloric intake.

Face Winter with a Spring in Your Step

We can’t make winter pass any faster, but we can keep our spirits high and enjoy winter while it’s here by eating foods that elevate our moods and inject color into its cold, dark days. Eat a wide variety of colorful, mood-boosting foods this winter to keep your spirits high through the arrival of spring.

You will love the way you feel!

Chef Marshall O’BrienThe Chef Marshall O’Brien Group is a dedicated assembly of professionals based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, committed to the goal of using nutrition to get kids and families to lead happier, healthier lives.