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Depression Health Center

Foods That Fight Winter Depression

When long nights bring on a long face, this can mean seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Here are some tips to help fight off the winter blues.
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More Nutritional Tips for Raising Mood in Winter

Ross also recommends a nutritional supplement called 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which raises serotonin levels. This is not for everybody -- read the label carefully. For instance, people with heart problems should not take it. Also remember that supplements such as this one are not as closely regulated by the government and may contain questionable substances. Ross says 5HTP should only be taken for a short period, to bump up serotonin levels, which will then stay elevated. "You don't take it forever," she says.

Protein, she says, should be eaten three times a day. Another good rule is to eat four cups of brightly colored veggies a day. "This is enough to fill a (pardon the expression) 1 quart ice cream container." Vegetables are carbs, but the kind that feed into your system slowly.

Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at the NYU Medical Center, tells WebMD it's best to substitute fruit for cookies and chocolate ice cream. In general, the good carbs of veggies, fruit, and beans help energy levels.

"If weight gain in the winter months is your concern," Heller says, "you should get a healthy eating plan from a registered dietitian."

Timing Is Also Everything

It's fashionable to urge people to eat half a dozen small meals a day, but this is an individual preference, Heller says.

"If you eat lunch at one o'clock and know you won't have dinner until eight o'clock, you may need a snack. If you eat junk food for lunch, by four o'clock you will be foraging for chocolate."

She urges people to try eliminating all white, starchy foods for two weeks -- bread, rice, potatoes. "You will be amazed at how good you feel," she says. "But you need to stick to it to see a difference."

Even as a nutritionist, she admits to having experienced the opposite. "I was going to visit my mother and bought a muffin for her and one for me," she says. "After I ate it, I felt like I had been drugged."

That's another thing about seasonal affective disorder -- the lows are lower. If you are already serotonin-challenged, what you eat will have a bigger impact than in summer.

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