Choose the Right Foods. Decrease symptoms of S.A.D. and avoid unwanted weight gain.

Choose the right foods.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that affects 25 million Americans, mostly women. Much research has been done on this mysterious disorder.

In somewhat of a simplification, the lack of light in wintertime can result in lower levels of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical that regulates hunger and the feeling of well-being.

3 Ways to Boot up Your Serotonin

Julia Ross, MA, is director of the Recovery Systems Clinic in San Francisco and author of The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure. She tells WebMD there are three ways to jump-start your serotonin:

  1. Subject yourself to bright indoor light. This is the touchstone of seasonal affective disorder treatment. Many pricey lights are available. Ross says a 300 watt bulb within three feet for 20 minutes three times a day can help, although the boost in serotonin may be temporary.
    1. Don’t yet have a light therapy lamp? We like the Verilux HappyLight Liberty ($100, amazon.com) which delivers 10,000 lumens of UV-filtered light per square meter.
  2. Exercise. This is very hard to do when caught up in the seasonal affective disorder cycle. But if you can force yourself to start, 15 to 20 minutes of fast walking and weight training can reduce a sweet tooth and improve mood.
  3. Eat wisely. This means, pushing away the leftover cake and eating sensible carbs to stimulate serotonin. Sweets and simple carbs, like white rice and white bread, quickly raise blood sugar, flood you with insulin, and then drop you in a hole. Eating wisely also means watching the caffeine, which suppresses serotonin. “If you must drink coffee, save it for after the meal,” Ross says.
    1. Choose more complex carbohydrates ,such as oatmeal, brown rice, beans and quinoa. Do not overdo it on carbs “to prevent the winter weight gain associated with SAD.” The urge to gorge on carbohydrates is just one symptom of SAD, and there’s a reason your body wants them:
    2. Consuming carbohydrates boosts the availability of the amino acid tryptophan, which sunlight converts to mood-boosting serotonin and vitamin B6. Rather than loading up on carbs, opt for foods containing tryptophan (seafood, poultry, grass-fed meats, eggs, nuts, soy products , leafy greens, and green vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli are all good sources) for a mood lift. Dark leafy greens like collards, kale, and chard are all good sources of tryptophan.
    3. 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.”
  4. Foods to Have on Hand . If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, you may be too shot to run to the store. This can work for you if you keep fairly healthful commodities in the pantry. Some suggestions:
    1. Popcorn
      Oatmeal -original, quick oats
      Egg whites for omelets
      Peanut butter
      Prewashed veggies
      Whole grain crackers and bread
      Deli turkey
      Cottage cheese


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