What Foods Are Good for Seasonal Depression?

Medically Reviewed on 2/2/2022

3 nutrients essential for treating seasonal depression

foods that fight winter depression
The 3 nutrients essential for treating seasonal depression are vitamin D, omega-3s, and carbohydrates, as well as the following foods.

Some nutrients that can help combat winter blues include:

  1. Vitamin D:
    • There is a mixed response about the association between low vitamin D levels and depression.
      • Studies that opposed the association used a weaker form of vitamin D (vitamin D2) instead of D3.
      • Studies that supported vitamin D used to treat depression noticed that people suffering from seasonal depression showed a significant improvement in their depression symptoms. It is an easy and cost-effective treatment to improve mental health.
    • Vitamin D can be incorporated into the diet through the following foods:
      • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, or rainbow trout
      • Fish oils, such as cod liver oil
      • Vitamin D–fortified milk
      • Egg yolks
  2. Omega-3s:
    • As the body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids, one needs to consume them through their diet.
    • The more potent forms of omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found mainly in fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, and anchovies. The less potent form of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, (ALA) is mainly found in flaxseeds, hemp, canola, and walnut oils.
    • Studies have backed the deficiency of omega-3s and its association with seasonal depression.
      • Omega-3s help maintains a healthy level of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine.
      • A low level of serotonin is linked with depression, aggression, and suicidal tendencies.
      • Some results have shown that people in Iceland, who consume more cold-water fish, are less prone to seasonal depression.
      • Various studies on the effects of fish oil supplementation to manage depression have reported encouraging results.
  3. The right kind of carbohydrates:
    • The right kind of carbohydrates promotes the production of serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical that can alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.
    • Some of the right carbohydrates that may prevent symptoms of winter depression are:
      • Popcorn
      • Pretzels
      • Shredded wheat squares
      • Lentils
      • Brown rice
      • Potatoes
    • Eating sweets and simple carbohydrates, such as doughnuts, white rice, and white bread, instantly elevates blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin spike. A sudden spike in the insulin can break down entire blood sugar, leading to a sudden drop in blood sugar level (sugar crash).
    • Experts recommend eating carbohydrates with low fat and low protein to ensure sufficient serotonin production in the brain.

10 foods to keep handy during winters

Here are 10 foods to keep handy during the winter months:

  1. Egg whites for omelets
  2. Peanut butter
  3. Prewashed vegetables
  4. Fruit
  5. Whole-grain crackers and bread
  6. Deli turkey
  7. Cottage cheese
  8. Popcorn
  9. Oatmeal (original, not the dessert form)
  10. Nuts

4 foods known to combat winter blues

Here are some foods that are known to combat the winter blues:

  1. Berries:
    • Berries can regulate the unwanted response of cortisol in the body, which is a hormone associated with emotional response and memories. Managing cortisol can improve thoughts and help take charge of one’s emotions, thereby improving symptoms of depression.
    • Some of the commonly available berries are:
      • Blueberries
      • Strawberries
      • Raspberries
  2. Dark chocolate:
    • Dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa is known to increase the production of phenylalanine, which is responsible for dopamine production that reduces symptoms of seasonal depression and uplifts mood instantly.
  3. Dark green leafy vegetables:
    • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as collard, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens, can play an instrumental role to decrease symptoms of seasonal depression.
  4. Fermented foods:
    • Besides nourishing the gut, fermented foods help produce serotonin. 
    • Sauerkraut, kimchi, and plain yogurt are some of the options to reduce symptoms of depression.

What is seasonal depression?

Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression, is a type of depression that affects a person every year at about the same time due to changes in seasons.

One theory suggests that seasonal depression occurs due to disruption in brain chemicals, such as melatonin and serotonin, that affect mood caused by low sunlight levels or increased darkness. Another theory suggests that vitamin D deficiencies caused by lower sunlight levels can result in depression.

While light therapy has been the most effective therapy for seasonal depression, some foods can play a vital role in easing depression symptoms.


Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, Medication See Slideshow
Medically Reviewed on 2/2/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

WebMD. Foods That Fight Winter Depression. https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/foods-that-fight-winter-depression

Cleveland Clinic. Eating to Lift Your Winter Blues. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14080-eating-to-lift-your-winter-blues

Bitely J. 6 Foods That Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. A Healthier Michigan. https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2014/11/26/6-foods-that-combat-seasonal-affective-disorder/