BLOG: We are almost through February, the last full month of winter! For some, the end of the season can bring winter blues to a culmination and result in seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, and most often in the winter. The symptoms of SAD, including irritability and loss of energy, are very similar to its less severe partner, cabin fever.
Whether you suffer from mild cabin fever or more acutely from seasonal affective disorder, there are nutritional measures you can take to do your part in preventing or reducing symptoms. In fact, there are three dietary components that I recommend to raise your spirits: coffee, vitamin D and comfort foods. Research provides evidence that each of these components can play a role in improving mood.
Coffee: Studies that link coffee consumption with decreased risk of depression suggest that caffeine from coffee may be beneficial by activating dopamine and serotonin in the brain. The activation of these feel-good neurotransmitters may be enough to elevate mood for short term or seasonal sufferers.
Vitamin D: A low level of vitamin D is considered a major risk factor for depression. Vitamin D can be found in foods, such as fortified dairy products, and can also be created in the body after exposure to sunlight. Indoor winter activities make us more susceptible to deficiencies and it becomes critical to rely on diet for vitamin D.
Comfort Foods: Research supports that comfort foods, or those warm and nostalgic family favorites, can actually improve a sense of well-being. Psychological associations with foods have been shown to actually stimulate the brain and promote positive feelings.
As a member of the local community, Stewart’s knows firsthand the importance of keeping shelves stocked with these feel-good foods. Stewart’s understands that winter weather can be unpredictable and ensures that you do not need to travel far for nourishment that feeds your mind and body. Each Stewart’s Shop always has fresh pot of coffee waiting to be poured and customized as you like it! But if a warm-brewed cup isn’t enough to bring you all the comforts of home, check out the hot food items available at the counter. Stewart’s has a wide variety of comforting soups, as well as chili, that are sure to bring warm thoughts of mom’s homemade cooking. And lastly, but certainly not least, stop by the dairy cooler to stock up on vitamin D. All Stewart’s dairy products, including their award-winning milk and delicious yogurt parfaits, are fortified with Vitamin D. In fact, just three cups of Stewart’s milk will provide you with 75% of the hard-to-find vitamin D you need each day!
As the chilly days and freezing nights come to a close, it is important to do all that you can to fight off the last of the winter blues. Stop into your local Stewart’s Shop for the items you need to keep you both happy and healthy. Better yet, consider getting some mood-lifting exercise and walking to your neighborhood shop! You can depend on a warm cup of coffee when you get there!
-Christine Sloat, RD, RDN
About Christine: Christine Sloat is a Registered Dietitian and life-long resident of upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics from the University of Delaware, with clinical training at Albany Medical Center. She has a nutrition consulting business, Nutritious Notions LLC.