Making healthy decisions is always important, but for some, it is even more important as the days get shorter and darker. Whether it’s rain or snow, fall and winter weather can impact everyone. The decrease in sunlight throughout the fall and the increase in time spent indoors as it gets colder or rainier can cause the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs of SAD include lower energy levels, increased moodiness, oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain and trouble concentrating.
It’s not just the lack of sunshine causing winter blues and poor productivity; what Chicago individuals put in their bodies plays a role too. Sugary quick fixes might provide a short-term energy boost, but in the long run, they are not helpful.
For many, there is a tool available to help combat SAD; serotonin. Made from the amino acid tryptophan, serotonin is most often found in the digestive system. To maintain a healthy amount serotonin in the body, Chicago individuals must consume tryptophan via their diet.
Research also supports a decreased risk of experiencing depression when eating a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the western diet isn’t always considered to be a healthy diet. To maintain healthy levels of serotonin (and a healthy diet), it is important to enjoy foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are vital for serotonin production.
Seven foods to enjoy during the winter to help combat SAD
Avocado: This fruit is rich in vitamin B6 (and other b-vitamins), which is needed for serotonin production. It is also high in fiber, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, which all contain great mood impacting nutrients.
Bananas: Rich in potassium and fiber, bananas also contain vitamins A, B6 and C; phosphorous; iron and tryptophan – the serotonin level boosting amino acid.
Berries: This colorful group of fruits is high in fiber and important antioxidants, which support the nervous system. While fiber does not directly produce serotonin, it plays an important role in the overall production process. Fiber is an important factor for good bacteria production in the gut, and since 90 percent of serotonin is generated in the gut, a healthy gut is very important.
Dark Chocolate: High in nutrients and antioxidants, dark chocolate, made with a minimum of 70 percent cocoa solids, impacts serotonin on two levels. Enjoying any favorite food increases endorphins which in turn boost serotonin levels. Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, a necessary nutrient for serotonin production.
Eggs: A great source of amino acids including tryptophan, eggs also contain vitamin D and healthy fats. Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D is important as low levels of vitamin D are connected to depression.
Almonds: As with dark chocolate, almonds are a great source of magnesium. Research has shown that magnesium plays an important role in regulating neurological pathways, and a deficiency can increase the chance of developing depression.
Spinach: Full of plant-based iron and mood-boosting B vitamins such as folate, vitamins B3, B6 and B12, spinach is a great leafy vegetable that supports serotonin production.
Even though most dark leafy greens including spinach are not a favorite snack, they are a great addition to smoothies, egg dishes and soups. Some of the above foods may not taste the best when enjoyed on their own, but they can be enjoyed as part of a recipe.
An easy way to encourage Chicago employees to enjoy healthy foods while at work and increase endorphins is to host a healthy breakfast party in the break room. Instead of letting everyone know ahead of time, make it a surprise party for an additional endorphin boost. Offer healthy options like yogurt parfaits with berries or bananas topped with almonds, acai smoothie bowls, fresh fruit, dark chocolate oatmeal breakfast bars, cocoa banana muffins or a coffee bar.
Whether you’re interested in modifying your current break room menu or completely redesigning it, Mark Vend can help. We offer a variety of break room options including office coffee service, vending options and healthy choices. For more information, please contact us at 847-291-9216.