But the good news is certain foods can help you ward off those feelings of seasonal depression. Here are 5 foods you should be eating and 2 recipes – one sweet and one savory - that should help boost your mood during the frosty days ahead.
Nuts and seeds – We’re just nuts for nuts. They’re convenient, cheap, and portable and are a good source of healthy fats and protein. Walnuts and Brazil nuts, in particular, are a good source of magnesium and selenium, which can help fight symptoms of depression.
Avocado – As you’re probably aware, the awesome avocado is a nutritional powerhouse. Here are just a few of the health benefits of this mighty little fruit. They can help lower cholesterol levels, prevent inflammatory diseases, help you maintain blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure. Plus, they contain serotonin; that will help to improve your mood. Added bonus – avocados are a well-known aphrodisiac and are ‘supposed’ to boost both male and female libido – which should, hopefully, lead to happy times.
Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc. are very effective against depression as they are absolutely full of antioxidant nutrients that help reduce stress and depression and improve cognitive function. Berries are also a good source of folate, which contribute to the production of serotonin and dopamine, both of which can help regulate your mood, sleep and behaviour.
B-vitamin foods – Studies have shown that if we don’t have an adequate amount of B vitamins – especially B6 and B12 - in our diet we are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. It also helps keep calm and stop getting so tired.
Good sources of vitamin B6 include fortified cereals, potatoes, sunflower seeds, beans, halibut and dark leafy greens.
Vegetarians/vegans may be vitamin B12 deficient as it most often found in animal products - tuna, cod, sardines, lamb and grass-fed beef are all excellent sources. So, it is recommended that they increase their intake of foods fortified with B12 (for example plant milks, and certain soy products/breakfast cereals) and to take a B12 supplement.
Dark Chocolate – The ultimate ‘comfort food’ - not only does chocolate taste delicious but it also provides an immediate improvement in mood and concentration levels. It also will boost blood flow to the brain, which increases endorphins, helping you feel happier. Other benefits include the fact is it high in magnesium, which helps to decrease anxiety, and it contains a small amount of caffeine providing you with an energy boost.
To keep you happy and balanced during these dark days we asked Fernanda Capobianco, chef and owner of Vegan Divas (http://vegandivasnyc.com), a gourmet baked goods store in New York, for a couple of her favourite guilt-free yet nourishing recipes.
Firstly, a pumpkin rice dish that is easy to make and full of nutrients, “I love this recipe because it's one full meal. It's fiber-rich from the rice, you have vitamins A and B from the pumpkin and also all the good fats in the avocado, explained Fernanda, “and it’s perfect for the winter because it's a consistent dish and you have the sweet, spice, salty and "fatty" flavors. You can add some pumpkin seeds or hazelnut if you want to added crunchiness.
• 3 1/2 cups water
• 2 cups black forbidden rice
• 1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons coarse salt
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 2 1/2 cups pumpkin diced
• 2 Asian pears sliced
• 1 raw avocado peeled and sliced
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1/4 cup grape seed oil
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, rice, ginger, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in a large serving bowl.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pear slices when it's cooked. Transfer the pumpkin to the serving bowl.
For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon, oil, maple syrup, and soy sauce until smooth.
Pour the dressing over the rice mixture, add the pear and avocados and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Vegans and non-vegans alike will love this over-the-top chocolate cake. It’s a classic American layer cake – super-moist chocolate layers, toped with their signature chocolate mousse, which has been thickened with a little cocoa powder.
Makes one 9-inch cake serving 12
Chocolate Cake Layers:
2 cups (256 g/9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (170 g/6 oz.) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 1/4 Tbsp. (27 g/0.9 oz.) baking powder
2 1/4 Tbsp. (27 g/0.9 oz.) baking soda
3/4 tsp. (2.25 g/0.08 oz.) coarse salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (258 g/9.2 oz.) extra-firm tofu
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (266 g/9.3 oz.) water
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (134 g/4.7 oz.) canola oil
1 cup (242 g/8.5 oz.) soy milk
1 cup (296 g/10.4 oz.) maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp. (18 g/0.6 oz.) vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp. (22 g/0.8 oz.) apple cider vinegar
2 cups (340 g/12 oz.) vegan semisweet chocolate morsels
2 Tbsp. (20 g/0.7 oz.) liquid coconut oil
Two and a half 12.3 ounce (871-g/30.75-oz packages extra-firm silken tofu
1 cup (154 g /5.4 oz.) unrefined sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (18 g/0.63 oz.) vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon (1.125 g/ 0.04 oz.) coarse salt
2 tablespoons (14 g/ 0.5 oz.) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
Fresh raspberries or cacao nibs to garnish
Place the chocolate morsels and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan half filled with barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place the tofu, unrefined sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth, about 1 minute. With the processor running, add the melted chocolate to the tofu mixture. Continue to process until blended, occasionally scraping down the sides of the work bowl, about 1 minute. Scrape the mousse into a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight before serving.
Make the cake layers:
1. Preheat the oven 325°F. Coat the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, process the tofu and water until smooth, about 40 seconds. Place the mixture in another medium bowl and whisk in the canola oil, soymilk, maple syrup, vanilla extract and vinegar. Whisk in the dry ingredients until blended. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes then invert the cakes onto the rack and cool completely.
Make the icing:
4. Prepare the icing as directed above, but do not refrigerate it. Add the cocoa powder to the mousse and process in the food processor until blended. Refrigerate the frosting just until the cake layers are completely cool.
Ice the cake:
5. Place one of the cake layers on a cardboard cake round or serving plate and top with a layer of icing. Top with the other cake layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.