Seasonal Affective Disorder: Top foods to eat your way out of the January Blues

The start of the year can be a bit dark and gloomy but there are certain foods you can be eating to help improve your mood

Woman smiles as she tucks into a bowl of food
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With the excitement of Christmas over with, lots of people tend to find January to be a bit of a mood-sucking month. It's still dark in the mornings and evenings, people are back at work after some downtime and many are trying to stick to new fitness and diet regimes. 

Some of you might have splashed out on new kitchen equipment to kick off any healthy eating goals in 2022, such as buying one of the best air fryers or best health grills. Not only is the kitchen a great place to help you trim down, but it can also have an influence over your overall mood.

One study published in the National Library of Medicine journal looked into the relationship between quality of diet and depressive symptoms. The research team discovered that a well-balanced, healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, which steers away from inflammation-producing foods could help to protect people from feelings of depression.

Moreover, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said that there is a legitimate link between food and mental health. 

“Your gut, which consists of no less than 100 trillion bacteria, has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS)", explained Lambert, "And, while its main purpose is to regulate digestion, it also has a strong connection to the brain and can have a major impact on your mental wellbeing.”

Person chops up leafy greens on a chopping board

(Image credit: Getty)

Not to worry if you feel in the dark about what foods you should eat to help boost your mood. No one wants to be overcome by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and this is why Lambert has some expert nutritionist tips on what foods to stock up on this January.

A nutritionist's guide on what foods to eat to avoid feelings of SAD this January

  • Dark Chocolate: If you assumed all sweet treats are off the menu, Lambert can confirm that dark chocolate contains an important fatty acid derivative that our minds can benefit from. It is known as N-Acylethanolamine and is chemically similar to cannabinoids which are associated with the brain’s mood and reward cycle.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Research has found that green leafy vegetables may be useful for protecting our brain from deterioration, helping us to feel more alert. This is good for avoiding feelings of lethargy and low moods. Leafy greens also clear up potentially dangerous compounds in the body that can lead to oxidative stress on your body. This could help prevent depression from occurring or escalating. Plus, they are high in magnesium which can help to relax your muscles and nerves.
  • Wholegrain Bread: Fiber can be a great support for our gut health through feeding the good bacteria that live there and relaying messages to the brain to enhance your mood. You can also avoid feelings of tiredness, irritability, and low mood when you eat carbohydrates, especially wholegrain, as they offer sustained energy. They also play a key role in serotonin production.
  • Walnuts: Studies show that walnuts are high in omega-3 which potentially is key for brain health. Omega-3 has been closely linked to lowering the likelihood of depression. If you don't like walnuts you can also source this nutrient in other foods such as oily fish or chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, or flax. Alternatively, you can take it in tablet form via one of the best fish oil supplements.
Jessica Downey
Jessica Downey

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. She is a keen runner and is currently sweating her way through a 10k training plan. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen - which she loves sharing with others on her healthy living-inspired Instagram account, @jessrunshere. Despite her love for nutritious cooking, she stands by the saying ‘everything in moderation’ and is eagerly conquering the London food and drink scene!