As we at gear up for the holiday season, we know that the colder weather is upon us, along with shorter daylight hours and longer evenings. We also know that as the winter approaches, many people start feeling a little “under the weather” and can experience depression. While depression can be hereditary, seasonal, or brought on by life events, it’s not something we just need to live with and through.

More and more research is showing that there is, in fact, nutritional support for dealing with depression. In fact, in a recent British study, the study group population focused more on consuming fresh, whole foods reported significantly fewer instances of depression than those consuming processed foods.

In addition, there are foods whose properties lend themselves to supporting your good mood. Let’s take a look at some of the foods that can help you feel more energetic, and less melancholy as we get closer to winter — or any other time of the year.

Salmon, tuna, trout, halibut or other cold-water fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are gaining notoriety in studies that show evidence that people who eat food with a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids are less likely to get depressed. There are plant-based sources of Omega3s as well, including walnuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Oatmeal, soy milk and two scrambled eggs. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is the brain’s “feel-good” hormone. Eat these foods and you’ll be getting a healthy dose of tryptophan to help your cells increase serotonin production. Many antidepressants are designed to prolong the activity of serotonin in our cells, but you can actually increase the levels by eating carbohydrates (except those found in fruits).

Low levels of the B vitamin folate, found in spinach, peas, navy beans, orange juice, wheat germ or avocado, may play a role in depression in some patients. Folate deficiencies are not uncommon as different medical conditions and medications like aspirin and birth control pills can lead to deficiencies. Research conducted at Harvard University found that depression in folate deficient individuals does not respond well to antidepressants. Increasing the intake of folic acid in food and in supplement form helped to improve the response.

Broccoli helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Our moods are affected by these levels, and that can affect depression. In addition it’s another vegetable high in folate.

If we work to incorporate these nutritionally positive foods into our diet this winter, we may experience benefits we never associated with food before. And we can help to support our mood til we return to the springtime sun.