Today, we’ll look at how eating right makes a huge difference in the battle against winter blues. Last time, we discussed light therapy. and I encourage you to read that post if you struggle with seasonal affective disorder like me.
No girl loves sweets more than me. Christmas is my favorite time for indulging in cookie after cookie, because I love to bake.
But when those winter blues hit me hard in January, I change my eating habits. Not necessarily to lose weight. I change my eating plan to fight off winter blues.
If you are prone to seasonal affective disorder like I am, you may have issues with serotonin uptake. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced by your body from certain foods you eat. It regulates mood and produces good feelings. When you don’t have enough serotonin, those sad, heavy, depressed feelings can overwhelm you.
A Serotonin-Sapped Story
One winter when I was in college, I tried the cabbage soup diet. Have you heard of it? You don’t eat anything but cabbage soup or other veggies to drop weight. Day 1 wasn’t too bad. I truly like veggies, and the soup is tasty at first. I trudged through Day 2, though I wasn’t as enthusiastic.
On Day 3, I sat in my car, eating raw carrots before classes began. Apparently, my brain was running on serotonin fumes due to the drastic change from my normal breakfast of peanut butter on whole wheat toast with a glass of skim milk.
An uncontrollable anger swarmed through my body like a cloud of biting locusts. It was like the worst case of PMS I had ever endured, raised to the 10th power. I tossed the carrots and headed to the vending machine, putting in my quarters for a chocolate chip granola bar. Within minutes, I was soothed, and I was officially finished with the stupid cabbage diet.
The Science Behind Healthier Eating
Now I know that science can explain what happened to me that day. The peanuts and milk I normally ate are sources of tryptophan, which the body uses to produce serotonin. The carbs in whole wheat bread circulate insulin in the bloodstream, which leaves more tryptophan available for the body’s use. That kind of breakfast is perfect for a serotonin-starved girl like me. Carrots, not so much.
I also know why that chocolate chip granola bar soothed me. The carbs plus chocolate were the perfect fix for my problem. Chocolate boosts serotonin levels in your brain. One of my relatives was diagnosed with serotonin issues decades ago. Since this relative was a child at the time, the doctor was reluctant to prescribe medication. The doctor said my relative could eat a little chocolate when the blues hit and experience similar mood-boosting results to medication.How #chocolate helps you beat #winter blues. Click To Tweet
Until I recently heard that story, I didn’t know why chocolate was ALWAYS available at my relative’s home when I was growing up. I now know why I feel different on days that I skip my daily piece of chocolate—I literally feel better on the days that I do. Chocolate is a quick fix for my family’s unique genetic issues…and I’m thankful for such an easy, delicious solution!
About 75 percent of your body’s serotonin can be found in your intestines, which means a healthy gut is essential for good serotonin uptake. Fermented foods like pickles and yogurt are great for gut balance—and I love both! My favorite source of healthy gut food, however, is bone broth.
Benefits of Bone Broth
Almost every day in winter, I eat soup made from homemade chicken stock. I had no idea how healthy it is until I read this informative article. It helps your body in dozens of ways, primarily by restoring good health to your intestines.
Since we know that serotonin hangs out in the intestines, we need to create a great environment for it to fight off winter blues. Who doesn’t love soup in the winter? When you make it with bone broth, it’s a perfect, medication-free solution for battling seasonal affective disorder.
Here’s my favorite, easy recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock.
Place the carcass from a rotisserie chicken in a large stockpot.
Add to stockpot:
- 2 yellow onions, quartered with skin on (this produces a lovely color)
- 4 stalks celery, tops left on, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 3-4 garlic cloves, no need to chop
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Cover all items with water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes; reduce heat to low. Simmer 2-3 hours.
Place a fine, wire-mesh sieve over a few large glass or ceramic bowls that will fit in your refrigerator. You can line a colander with cheesecloth if you don’t have a wire sieve.
Ladle liquid and solids into the sieve, allowing the stock to drip through. Discard all solids.
Let the stock cool a bit in the bowls, about 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Scrape the fat off the cold chicken stock and discard. Your beautiful stock is now ready to use. This recipe yields 20-24 cups of stock.
You can freeze the stock in 4-cup plastic containers; I use leftover yogurt containers. Make sure to leave about 0.75 inches of headspace between the top of the stock and the lid, because it will expand when freezing. It will last several months in your freezer, if you can keep it that long. I make a new batch every other week.
You can use your chicken stock in my favorite Quick Vegetable Soup recipe:
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 14-oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 12-oz bag frozen baby lima beans
- 2 14-oz cans petite diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 8 cups homemade stock
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon seasoned salt (I love Penzey’s 4S)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
If your stock is frozen, begin melting it in a saucepan.
In a large stockpot, saute onion and zucchini in a teaspoon of oil over medium-low heat. Once softened, add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add mixed vegetables, lima beans, and diced tomatoes. Season with Italian seasoning, seasoned salt, and pepper. Add liquid stock and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 20 minutes, then enjoy this super-healthy soup for your gut AND your serotonin levels!2 easy recipes to help you fight off #winter blues. #bonebroth Click To Tweet
Don’t forget to eat your soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread. The dairy and complex carbs will provide tryptophan for serotonin production. Add turkey to your sandwich for even more tryptophan and deliciousness.
Conquering Your Cravings
If you have the winter blues, you may be craving more carbs and sweets than normal as your body cries out for serotonin. It’s important not to overdo it, because you can get trapped in a dangerous cycle of overeating and self-condemnation. I’ve been there, and that’s why I’ve prepared a special resource for you in my Library.
This printable contains specific scriptures to help you battle food cravings and find strength in God. I have this page hanging next to my work area, so I am grounded when temptation strikes. Sign up here to receive 10 Scriptures to Help You Trade Food Cravings for God’s Peace, along with many other encouraging resources.
Friend, if you’re struggling with the winter blues, I hope this post has boosted your mood. I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. Join me next Thursday for another post in the series for more ways to fight off winter blues. Here’s a prayer to encourage you today:
Lord in Heaven, I confess that I often make food choices that aren’t good for me. I know you want me to be healthy so I can serve you well. Help me make better choices that will strengthen my body and spirit this winter. Thank you for giving me such healthy options, and for working your will in my life and my body. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for you:
Do you struggle with healthy eating habits in the winter?
What healthy foods can you eat this week for a serotonin boost?
Which one of these recipes will you try?
If you liked this post, I would appreciate your shares on social media!
This post may be linked up at #sundaythoughts, #inspirememonday, #momentsofhope, #dreamtogether, #glimpsesofhisbeauty, #lmmlinkup, #gritup, #teaandwordtuesday, #raralinkup, #tellhisstory, #coffeeforyourheart, #sittingamongfriends, #writerwednesday, #encouragingwordwednesday, #porchstories, #heartencouragement, #chasingcommunity, #tuneinthursday, #gracemoments, #saltandlight, #thankfulandgrateful, #dancewithjesus, #faithnfriends, #freshmarketfriday, #graceandtruth, and #faithonfire. I love the blogging community and consider these hosts my friends–please visit their sites and encourage them too!
By signing up, you’ll instantly receive the mini book 5 Days to Greater Peace. You’ll also have access to all the encouraging resources in my Library!
* indicates required