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7 Foods that Fight the Winter Blues

February 3, 2014

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Does your mood tend to drop along with the temperatures outside? It’s totally normal to feel a bit down during these short days and long nights—there’s a reason this is the time of year when many animals go into hibernation mode. Luckily, when you hone in on the mood-boosting qualities of certain foods, you create a positive ripple effect on your body and mind. To reap these benefits, try to choose more “happy” whole foods that have an uplifting combination of antioxidants and essential nutrients.

Perk up your plate with some of these cheerful (and healthy!) picks:

Navel oranges: The vibrant orange peel and flesh of this sweet, juicy fruit may be enough to make you all smiles. Zest the orange or slice it up to get the benefits of folic acid, an effective blues-buster. Temple, mandarin, and navel oranges give you a natural dopamine-releasing sugar rush, and they’re also a solid source of vitamin C, which has been found to improve mood.

Sea Veggies: High in iodine and selenium, sea vegetables such as nori, dulse, kelp, and kombu are a great way to balance your hormones and mood. They’re also energizing and nourishing, thanks to their supply of omega 3’s, fiber, and iron. If you don’t like the taste on its own, try sprinkling dried varieties on a rice dish, or scoop some kelp powder into your morning smoothie.  

Chai tea: Can’t get out of a funk? Grab a cup of Indian chai tea that contains cardamom. This invigorating spice has long been used by those who practice Ayurveda to stabilize mood and treat symptoms of depression. Just smelling the combination of cardamom and cinnamon in the tea can provide an instant pick-me-up. 

Baby portabello mushrooms: Fight off the blues with this edible, earthy mushroom that’s high in mood-lifting vitamin D—you probably need some D anyway, since the sun is a distant memory. Portabellos are also rich in niacin, riboflavin, and other B vitamins that support the brain in producing mood-regulating chemicals. Both portabello and shiitake mushrooms are regularly used in oriental medicine for their healing and disease-fighting properties. 

Harissa: This North African hot sauce made from red roasted peppers, Serrano peppers, and other hot chilies contains the mouth-burning natural compound capsaicin. Once your brain recognizes the spicy stuff that’s entered your body, it responds by releasing mood-boosting endorphins. Tabasco sauce or hot salsa can also pack a powerful capsaicin punch and both have warming properties

Pinto Beans: These little pink legumes are an amazing source of folic acid, a common treatment for mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Just a ½ cup serving is full of folate and stocked with other nutrients including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Other beans that are rich in folic acid include mung beans, lentils, and chick peas.

Sundried tomatoes: Grab a handful of sundried tomatoes for a snack. All tomatoes are a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, but sundried ones actually have the highest concentration per serving. Lycopene is a phytochemical that may fight inflammation that causes depression and low mood. Consider using some tomato paste, cherry tomatoes, and even an all-natural ketchup to benefit from this blues-busting compound.  

What foods do you turn to for a natural pick-me-up?