Food for Your Mood

Like I said in my December column, ‘January is the saddest of months around these parts.’ We’re as far away from Christmas as we’ll ever be; yet warm temps are months away. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a thing, and some are more prone to it than others. Inclement weather and the extra hours of darkness make it hard to get out for fresh air and sunshine (what little we get). Unless you can escape to your summer home in Florida, try these simple diet tweaks to help improve your mood while we wait out the long winter.

  1. Vitamin D. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ Vitamin D is made in our bodies when we’re exposed to the sun. However, it’s common for our levels to be low during the winter. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but it is found in canned salmon, cheese and egg yolks. Additionally, many milks and orange juices are fortified with Vitamin D as well. Make It Happen: Whip up a salmon frittata with eggs, canned salmon, feta and a little dill.
  2. Studies show those with depression tend to have lower levels of folate than those without depression. Folate is one of the B vitamins and can be found in dark leafy greens, edamame and avocado. Make It Happen: Try a salad with kale, edamame, avocado, red bell peppers and a lemon vinaigrette.
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. When people talk about ‘brain food,’ the first on the list is always omega-3s, found most commonly in cold-water fish. Studies show that those who eat more fish tend to have fewer symptoms of depression. Other sources of omega-3s include sardines, anchovies and walnuts. Make It Happen: Add sardines to spaghetti with pesto; recipe found in Run Fast Eat Slow.
  4. B vitamins. B vitamins play various roles in brain function, so making sure you’re loading up on those guys is a good idea. Whole grains are high in B vitamins, so take this opportunity to expand your repertoire. Instead of relying on traditional instant oats and brown rice, try steel-cut oats, quinoa, amaranth and millet, too. Make It Happen: Use steel-cut oats to make baked oatmeal and have breakfast ready all week long.
  5. Researchers have found that probiotics had a positive effect on depression symptoms in a majority of studies. Probiotic supplements are available, but it’s easy to add sources of probiotics to your diet. Yogurt, kefir, kimchi and miso all contain probiotics. Make It Happen: Consider a supplement if you’re not already into yogurt.
  6. Limit caffeine and added sugars. It’s always a good idea to moderate your intake of things that are known to affect mood and/or your sleep, such as caffeine and sugar. Consider quitting your afternoon cup of coffee or soda in favor of herbal tea or a sparkling water. While there is limited research to support added sugar having a dramatic effect on energy levels, we all know how we feel after downing an entire package of M&Ms: not good. Instead, take a walk when you need a pick-me-up. Make It Happen: Waterloo Grape seltzer water KNOCKS MY SOCKS OFF. I’m confident you’ll like it, too.
  7. Establish a Routine. Our bodies perform the best when we get enough sleep, good nutrition and plenty of fresh air and physical activity. Sticking to a regular schedule will help ensure you go to bed at approximately the same time each night, eat breakfast within an hour of waking and incorporate exercise into your day. Make It Happen: Set an alarm for each activity until you get used to the new routine.

I’ll be out jogging with the stroller a few times a week, and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from my new Whole30 Slow Cooker cookbook I got for Christmas. Will I see you out on a walk, too?



The MIND Diet

The fifth installment of the series on eating patterns is about the MIND Diet. Last month, we explored the Macrobiotic Diet and discussed its holistic approach and strong reliance on plant foods, with some fish, nuts and seeds. Ranked #4 (tied with Weight Watchers) out of 41 total diets in the U.S News Best Diet Rankings, the MIND Diet is similar to the Mediterranean and DASH Diets, but focuses on foods that improve brain health and cognition. Continue reading “The MIND Diet”

chia is a wonderful thing

I’m obsessed with making chia seed pudding.  (I know, I’m a little late to the party.)

It is seriously perhaps the easiest treat to whip up, and it’s packed with nutrition.


I got started on the chia kick when I had a delicious chia seed pudding with blueberries from Kornerstone Cafe and Juice Bar, here in East Aurora. Ever since, I’ve been making them in pint jars and having one every few days.

I typically buy unsweetened vanilla almond/cashew milk, in which case I add 1 T of maple syrup to 6 ounces milk.  Recently, the co-op was out of the unsweetened variety, so I bought the original version (which has sugar) and omitted the maple syrup.  While the bag of chia seeds claims you only need 2 T of seeds to 6 ounces water, I found it didn’t gel enough.  I increased it to 3 T seeds to 6 ounces liquid and it turned out perfectly. (I also found other sources online who use the 3:6 ratio.)

One thing I did find was that MY chia seed pudding didn’t seem to ‘gel’ quite like the commercial varieties (those I’ve seen in stores, cafes, etc..).  Yes, my pudding gelled well and had the right consistency.  However, the seeds didn’t ever seem to swell or get as translucent as others I’ve seen.  This was especially true when I made the chia cherry jam.  Not a complaint, simply an observation.

I think what I love the most is that I’m having a really nutritious treat when I’m eating chia seed pudding.  For one serving, I’m getting approximately 240 calories (180 in seeds, 60 in almond milk), 9-12 grams protein, 15 grams fiber and 7.5 grams omega-3 fatty acids. That’s a great mid-afternoon snack!