Are you feeling SAD for reasons you cannot identify?

Feeling “SAD” this time of year is a real thing–I am not referring to holiday anxiety, but a true depression that hits people when temperatures drop, the days become shorter, and time spent outdoors is infrequent at best. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real thing, when serotonin and dopamine levels dip in the brain, and we are left feeling tired and depressed. Certain foods, like complex carbohydrates, naturally boost these hormones, so a nice bowl of Butternut Squash soup is a great pick me up on a cold winter’s day. It is also loaded with potassium and Vitamin A (from the sweet potatoes of course), so it is a nutritional home run. Other complex carbs, such as oats, bananas, and legumes–such as beans, peas, and lentils–are also loaded with Vitamin B, fiber,  tryptophan, and potassium which are all helpful in fighting depression.

The Vitamin D found in fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, also helps to boost your mood. But sadly this time of year, anyone living north of Atlanta will be deficient in Vitamin D from a lack of sunlight and should take a supplement. I don’t recommend people take a lot of vitamins and supplements, but this is a case where it is impossible to get enough Vitamin D from your food during the winter months.  2000-4000 units of Vitamin D daily for adults is ideal.

The healthy fats found in avocados, nuts, egg yolks, and olive oil are also essential to your body this time of year in particular, as the air is cold and dry, and our skin and hair often suffer as a result. All the moisturizer in the world will not help you, if you are dehydrated and deficient in fats.  Throw in some citrus for Vitamin C and leafy greens for added dopamine, and you should notice an improvement in how you feel.  I also encourage people who don’t always take a probiotic to please start  during the winter months.  Most colds and other viruses begin in the “gut”, so keeping your GI tract healthy is a great way to prevent getting sick this year.

A final note–light therapy is a relatively new, but successful, treatment for seasonal depression, and certainly worth looking into, in addition to making these nutritional adjustments.  I always prefer to look for treatment through food, and alternative remedies instead of heading to the doctor for a prescription.  Stay well and warm!

My clients this week have been greeted at my door with a “to go” container of this soup, and so far the reports have all been good…Enjoy!

The Best Butternut Squash Soup

2-2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes
1 lrg. onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 lrg. sweet potato, diced
4 Tbs. unsalted organic butter, or vegan butter
6 cups vegetable stock
kosher salt
ground pepper
ground nutmeg
Directions:
Melt butter
Saute onions until soft. Add carrots, celery, squash and sweet potato. Cook for 5 minutes
Add stock, 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat.
Cook for 35-40 minutes until squash is tender.
Use immersion blender (or a blender is fine!) to puree when soup is cooled.
Add nutmeg and pepper to taste.

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