It can be tough to maintain your normally sunny disposition during the winter months. Seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that's caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight and drop in serotonin, affects up to 20% of the population and is four times more common in women.
If you've noticed a dip in your mood and energy levels, don't head to the vending machine for an instant sugar hit. Instead, Health recommends reaching for nutrient-packed snacks that studies suggest could boost your mood, naturally. From folate-rich walnuts to omega-3 snacks like avocado toast, add these foods to your diet to stay healthy and happy throughout the day.
According to Health, walnuts are "a top dietary source of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps you feel content." A study by the University of New Mexico found that young, healthy men who consumed half a cup of walnuts a day saw a significant improvement in their mood. Lead researcher and nutrition professor Peter Pribis, Ph.D., credits the possible boost to several nutrients found in walnuts, including vitamin E, folate, and polyphenols.
A Harvard study found that coffee could reduce the risk of depression. Researchers analyzed 200,000 men and women and discovered that two-to-four cups could have a protective effect.
Omega-3 foods like salmon, avocado, and tuna have been found to protect against mood disorders. So could loading your plate with these foods reduce the risk of depression? "Many experts think that among people who don't have a genetic predisposition for mood disorders, they might," says registered dietitian Gretchen Vannice, the author of The Omega-3 Handbook.
Searching for more healthy snack ideas? Try these expert-approved recipes.