5 foods that are great for your mood—even when it's dark and gross out
We’re almost to the end of Daylight Saving Time and it’s about to get grim out there. Really grim—even before breakfast. As in dark when you wake up, and again by not-even-late afternoon. Colder, too. Perhaps you’re a person who cozies into the season with sweaters and cocoa at the ready. A small percentage of the population have a version of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that is the flip side of the one that nabs all the press. Those who suffer from it are felled by the brightness and warmth of the summer months, experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder, anxiety, agitation, and isolation until autumn eases in and the days grow shorter.
I’m glad you all are about to get some respite. These next few months are gonna suck for the rest of us. Even if you’re not a person who suffers from winter SAD, it can still be difficult to crawl from your cozy bed to the chill of your kitchen in the pre-dawn half-light, and it’s bound to get even more challenging after we fall back an hour on November 7.
But maybe breakfast can help. These ingredients and dishes are packed with nutritional properties that may aid your body in fighting depression and anxiety, increase your energy levels, and send you into your morning with a sunnier disposition. Even if it’s cold and dark as hell outside.
Like other carbohydrates, oatmeal helps with serotonin synthesis—a process that sands the edges off anxiety, and soothes your brain until a calmer state. Unlike other breakfast carbs like bread and pastries, oatmeal doesn’t come loaded down with a whole lot of sugar and fat, unless you add it your dang self. Consider making a bowl of savory oatmeal swirled with your favorite hot sauce (which provides a great endorphin kick), spice blend, fresh herbs—whatever brings you bliss without crash after. Add a handful of walnuts—one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to be essential to mood regulation. Make them the night before (those’d be your much-ballyhooed “overnight oats”) and mornings will be much easier to address.
No, I am not suggesting you eat a kale salad for breakfast; this is not 2014. But dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard contain high levels of Vitamins A, C, E, and K, and folic acid, all of which are helpful in maintaining a brain chemistry that may be less susceptible to depression. Saute them with eggs, blend them into your smoothie, or yeah—make a salad. We live in interesting, nonjudgmental breakfast times.
Avocados are packed with healthy fat that improves brain function, as well as protein, high dietary fiber and low amounts of sugar. If you cannot at this point in our culture figure out how to work avocado into your breakfast, I cannot help you.
Perhaps you don’t care to confront fish at breakfast, but take a tip from oh, say, half the planet. It’s good stuff, and the oily stuff is especially great for your brain. Doctors (including my own) prescribe fish oil to combat depression, because it contains high levels of omega-3. Fish oil is gross. Luckily, anchovies, herring, and salmon are brilliant and delicious scrambled into or alongside eggs, or in whole-grain porridges.
Breakfast doesn’t come much simpler, or more portable. Apples are filled with soluble fiber, which can help balance out blood sugar swings that affect your energy and your mood. Smear slices with a no-sugar-added almond butter (again with the omega-3) or just grab and crunch as you’re walking out the door into the crisp winter air.