Nutrition News: Seasonal Affective Disorder

“About 2 to 3% of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime. Another 15% will experience a milder form of SAD that leaves them only slightly depressed, but still able to live their life without major disruptions. People with seasonal affective disorder make up about 10% of all depression cases.”

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that appears at certain times of the year. Most commonly, it shows up in winter when there is a lack of sunlight, or lack of exposure to sunlight.

Who is at risk for SAD?

People who live close to the equator are less likely to suffer from SAD than those who live in northern countries/cities. Female adults are at the greatest risk of experiencing SAD, with women 9 times more likely to be diagnosed than men. Children, teens and those over the age of 50 are less at risk. Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to run in families, 15-17% of those who suffer from SAD have an immediate family member who does as well.

What does SAD look like?

Symptoms of SAD include but are not limited to: anxiety, insomnia, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, poor appetite, irritability & tiredness.

What can I do about it?

If you think you are suffering from SAD, speak with your Healthcare Provider. Your Doctor or Naturopath will be able to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

  • Spend more time outdoors during the day
  • Keep curtains open while you’re home to let the sunlight shine in
  • Invest in a SAD lamp, like this one: www.amazon.ca
  • Build physical activity into your lifestyle, preferably before SAD symptoms take hold. Physical activity relieves stress, builds energy and increases both your physical and mental well-being
  • As we know, our mood is greatly affected by nourishing from within, so be sure to continue eating an 80% real food diet. Incorporating more of the following foods may help as well:
    • Healthy fat: Omega-3 fatty acids found in flax, chia, hemp & cold water fish help maintain brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that play a role in mood.
    • Tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin can be found in many foods; focus on increasing your intake of pumpkin, eggs, chicken and bananas.
    • Cravings for carbs are a common symptom of SAD, this makes sense because carbohydrates boost the production of serotonin. But keep in mind, not all carbohydrates are created equal! Instead of binging on white pasta, bagels and doughnuts opt for real food that doesn’t cause insulin spikes and sugar crashes, such as sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice and oatmeal.
    • Vitamin D: shorter days means less sunlight which can lead to a deficiency of “the sunshine vitamin”. Food sources of vitamin D include: salmon, eggs and mushrooms. Have your Healthcare Provider check your levels and supplement when necessary.


Overnight chia seed oatmeal

Feel good after eating this pumpkin pie chia oatmeal parfait! 

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup or raw honey
  • topping: sliced banana
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together almond milk, pumpkin puree, syrup/honey until well combined.
  2. Stir in oats, chia seeds and spices.
  3. Pour into a glass jar or container and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Remove from fridge & top with sliced banana


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