Healthy Living Blog

Foods to Boost Mood & Reduce S.A.D.

Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor,


The “January slump”, February “funk”, the “winter blues” – whatever you call it, serious mood changes can be the result of seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).  The lack of sunshine in the winter is one factor that can contribute to SAD.  Decreased exposure to natural light adversely effects your circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle) and can decrease serotonin production.

You may have SAD if you have been depressed during the same season and have gotten better when the seasons have changed for at least 2 years in a row.  Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
  • Lose interest in your usual activities.
  • Craving and eating more carbohydrates (bread, pasta, sweets)
  • Gain weight
  • Sleep more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

Symptoms vary, but for most symptoms start in the fall (October) and end in spring (April or May).

The use of light therapy (specialized light boxes), behavioral therapy and anti-depressants can be prescribed to treat SAD.  But, by adding a bit of physical activity and making some healthy changes to your diet, you can reduce your risk for seasonal sadness.

Increase your intake of these mood boosting nutrients:


Folate supports serotonin levels and helps to regulate mood.  Folate deficiency can cause fatigue in addition to lowering levels of serotonin.  The RDA for folate is 400 mcg per day for adults.  Good Food sources of folate include: Spinach, Kale, Brussels sprouts, Avocado, and Oranges/Orange juice.


Omega-3 essential fatty acids must be obtained through diet and play an important role in brain health. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, memory decline and depression. Fatty fish is the best source of Omega-3’s.  Good food sources include:  Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Chia Seeds, and Flax Seed.  Greens such as spinach and broccoli are also fair sources of omega-3’s.   Aim for at least 1,200 mg omega-3’s daily.

Vitamin B6

This B vitamin aids in the production of brain neurotransmitters which influence emotions and mood. Deficiency in B6 can cause a form of short-term anemia; long-term effects include a weakened immune system, confusion and depression. Vitamin B6 is also an effective method for treating (PMS) premenstrual depression.  The RDA for Vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg per day for adults.   Good food sources include lean Pork, Chickpeas, Salmon, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 may influence mood by playing a role in serotonin production and in the production of several neurological chemicals. B12 is also an essential element that aids in the creation of red blood cells and nerves. Low levels of B12 can cause short-term fatigue, slowed reasoning and paranoia, and are associated with depression. The RDA for Vitamin B12 2.4 mcg per day for adults. Good food sources include fish such as Trout, Salmon, and Tuna and cheeses such as Mozzarella and Swiss.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because your body requires ultraviolet light from the sun to activate vitamin D stores. Studies show that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with depressive symptoms in both men and women.  The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU per day for adults. Good sources of vitamin D include fortified dairy such as low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks.  Mushrooms that have been exposed to light before harvest are also good sources of vitamin D.  Fish and fish oils (cod liver oil) are also rich in Vitamin D.


Zinc is found in almost every cell and supports immune health.  Low levels of zinc in the diet can lead to a variety of ailments, including a weakened immune system, loss of appetite, anemia, hair loss and depression. Studies suggest that zinc can help decrease symptoms of depression and enhance response to antidepressants. Zinc deficiency can trigger depressive behaviors and eating zinc-rich foods can help balance your mood.  The RDA for Zinc is 11 mg per day for men; 8 mg per day for women.  Good food sources include:  Pumpkin Seeds, Nuts-Cashews, Pork, Seafood, and some cheeses (Swiss).


A super-powered antioxidant nutrient, selenium reduces oxidative stress in the brain can be associated with mild to moderate depression in the elderly population.  The RDA for selenium is 55 micrograms a day for men and women.  Whole grains are an excellent source of selenium–eat whole grains foods such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice. Other good sources of selenium include: Beans and legumes, Lean meat (lean pork or beef, skinless chicken or turkey), Low-fat dairy foods, Nuts and seeds (especially Brazil nuts), Seafood (fish and shellfish).

Mood Boosting Recipes:

NEW at Meijer: Coleman Natural® Pork

  • No Antibiotics…EVER!
  • No Added Hormones…EVER!
  • No Preservatives…EVER!
  • No Nitrates or Nitrites or MSG
  • 100% Vegetarian Fed with No Animal By-Products
  • Humanely Raised and Processed
  • Sustainably Farmed



Pork Cutlets with Ginger-Pear Sauce

Servings: 4


1 tbsp. Meijer olive oil

8 (3 oz.) pork cutlets

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp. Meijer unsalted butter

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. peeled, grated gingerroot

2 medium pears, peeled, cored and cubed

Chopped fresh parsley




1. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Lightly season pork with salt and pepper to taste. Add pork to skillet; cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pork to a platter; set aside.


2. Return skillet to heat. For the sauce, stir in wine, scraping up browned bits. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Add butter, brown sugar and ginger; stir to combine.


3. Add pears; cook 5 to 7 minutes, coating with sauce. Spoon pears and sauce on pork, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.


Nutrition information per serving: Calories 342, Total Fat 16g, Saturated Fat 7g, Cholesterol 106mg, Sodium 68mg, Total Carbohydrates 17g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 11g. Recipe source: IN Marketing Services.


Serve with:

Stir-Fried Gingery Kale, Smashed Red Potatoes


Stir-Fried Gingery Kale

1 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp peeled, finely minced fresh ginger root

6 cups Earthbound Farms Baby Kale

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp sesame seeds



In a medium skillet, heat canola oil. Saute ginger root over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1 minute. Add kale and increase heat to medium-high. Add soy sauce and water and stir-fry until the kale is wilted, but still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Recipe Source: Meijer Healthy Living