Foods to Fight the Winter Blahs

When the days draw a grey picture and the cold bites to the bone, the chance of depression setting in becomes greater.  This sounds as heavy as it feels. If you feel this way just around wintertime, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Foods rich in tryptophan help to raise our serotonin levels (serotonin is your body’s natural “feel good” chemical).  The good news also is that many of these foods are also rich in Omega-3, a  “good” fat that helps to keep our brains healthy.

There are a few things you can try if you’ve got a case of the “winter blues”: a full-spectrum light box, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils), exercise, counseling, and revamping your diet. Try to create structure to your day by scheduling your exercise. Get out of bed, have breakfast, and force yourself to go for a walk. When the weather permits, going for walks outdoors can refresh you.  Even mall or gym walking can help raise your mood.

Food sources of tryptophan include red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey. The best kind of carbohydrates to eat are complex carbs (found in whole-grain foods and legumes). They release glucose more slowly than simple carbohydrates (like white breads or pasta), giving the brain a stable and consistent flow of fuel.

Here are two winter-warming recipes to help you fight the winter blahs:

Wild Rice and Turkey Soup – from my cookbook, “From My Family Recipe Box”
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
2 large carrots, chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 cups chopped cooked turkey (canned or leftover)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) chicken or turkey broth
¼ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic; cook and stir 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in turkey, rice, broth, salt and pepper; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add cream and simmer until heated through. Ladle soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

The SimmerMat

The SimmerMat

Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo – adapted from food.com
8 ounces shrimp, cooked
8 ounces fettuccine pasta, cooked
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half (optional)
½ cup fresh basil chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan melt butter, cream and cheeses. Add garlic powder. Simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes. Add cooked and drained noodles and toss to coat. If you desire a thinner sauce, add more cream. Place in serving dishes and add cooked shrimp. Sprinkle with tomatoes and basil. Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Eating cannot cure depression, but eating healthy foods can help fight back when the winter blahs set in.

(Editor’s Note: This article is not meant to take the place of medical advice.)

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.