Nip the winter blues in the bud

20 April 2017 by
First published: 4 November 2016

Here’s what to eat to nip the winter blues in the bud. As the winter months do have a way of making us feel a bit bleak. There’s just no escaping it. And nutritionist Lily Soutter has informed us that this is an actual thing. That we’re not just being drama queens because we hate the rain. It’s known as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) and it’s a mood disorder that triggers depressive symptoms in the winter months. The amount of serotonin produced within our brain is directly related to how much daylight we are exposed too. This can mean the short winter days can really affect sufferers, with the lack of light sometimes even tips them into a depression. Symptoms of SAD can include anxiety, low mood, lethargy fatigue, poor sleep, loss of libido, a change in appetite and even overeating. A weakened immune system is another key symptom of SAD, leading to an increase in both colds and infections during the winter.

So now we know that, what can we do about it? Here are Lily’s top ways to beat those winter blues and boost immunity…

Vitamin D

There is evidence to show that those suffering from SAD are often deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and pays a critical role in regulating the immune system and therefore it’s worth checking with your doctor to make sure your levels are up to scratch.


Garlic has amazing antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects. Raw garlic is the most effective and can easily be added into pesto, bruschetta, infused oils, salad dressings and healthy dips like hummus and guacamole.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a valued source of zinc. This mineral is so important to the immune system that even a mild deficiency can increase risk of infection. Try eating a handful of raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds a day.


These have long been used for their immune-boosting effects for centuries. A special sugar found in mushroom cell walls, beta glucans, is the key to improving our immune system. The varieties shiitake, cordyceps, enoki and maitake are especially effective. Try experimenting with different mushroom varieties in stir-fries, soups, stews and casseroles.

Mood-boosting fats

Healthy fats, especially omega-3s are essential for brain health and mood. Studies have shown an increase in omega-3 fats correlates with an increase in serotonin. This is down to the fact that omega-3 fats are involved in building serotonin receptor sites. Choose wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies.

Choose serotonin-rich foods

Some foods are naturally rich in our happy hormone serotonin. By boosting serotonin levels, we can ultimately boost our mood. So, eat more kiwi fruits, bananas, plums, tomatoes, walnuts.

Choose tryptophan-rich foods

Tryptophan is the precursor to our happy hormone serotonin. Consumption of a small amount of carbohydrates with tryptophan-rich foods can increase the absorption rate and conversion to serotonin.

 Increase your B vitamin intake

Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins are known to play a role in producing and stabilising mood-boosting brain chemicals and adequate intake is vital for that feel-good factor. Rich sources of B vitamins include: eggs, meat, fish, oats and brown rice.