Winter blues | Food to elevate your mood

It’s natural to feel a little down and out during the colder, darker months when the weather promotes staying inside, and snuggling under the duvet seems like the most logical thing to do. For many of us, the winter blues begin in autumn, continue through winter, and in some cases, last well into spring.

Rather than waiting around passively and wondering if “this too shall pass”, we at LK Fitness suggest making a few minor tweaks, starting with smart food choices that have been found to elevate mood.

The most essential bit of science to consider is that:

Your mood is affected by your blood sugar level, which can be affected by:

When you eat

Intermittent fasting, a dietary pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, have a number of health benefits. For more, read our article “What is Intermittent Fasting”. It may have minor side effects for some people though, which include irritability and other mood changes. If you have mood swings, rather keep your blood sugar levels consistent, by eating regularly throughout the day. Long periods between meals or skipping meals altogether may cause your blood sugar levels to drop, and in so doing affect your mood. The impact could result in you feeling “hangry” or worsen any underlying feelings of anxiety.

What you eat

In keeping with the notion that a consistent blood sugar level, rather than one of extreme highs and lows, is helpful, avoiding the full effect of the winter blues may be possible when certain foods and drinks are incorporated, whilst others are avoided.

Limiting sugars, saturated fats, refined grains, alcohol and caffeine may elevate your mood. Whilst eating a diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, as well as drinking water to stay hydrated may also have a positive impact.

Foods naturally rich in minerals that may help a person to feel calmer include:

  • Magnesium: Leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Zinc: Liver, beef, egg yolks, cashews, and oysters.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Dark-green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, walnuts and fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and herring.
  • Probiotics: Yoghurt, pickles, and kombucha.
  • B vitamins: Avocado, and almonds.
  • Vitamin D: Milk, egg yolks, salmon, sardines, and tofu.

Foods and drinks rich in antioxidants which may help ease feelings of anxiety include:

  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples, prunes, cherries, plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices: Turmeric, ginger
  • Teas: Chamomile, Green

In addition to maintaining a balanced blood sugar level, some “feel good” foods also spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which are associated with feelings of happiness, focus and calm, as well as motivation, and productivity.

Please note that whilst making smart food choices to help elevate your mood can only do you good, there’s not enough research to support using food as a “first-line treatment” for intense feelings of depression and anxiety is effective. Therefore, the suggestions here should not replace any meal plans, medications or therapies recommended by your healthcare provider. And, if you are struggling with intense feelings of depression and anxiety and you’ve not yet met with a healthcare provider, we strongly urge you to seek the support you deserve.


  1. What is Intermittent Fasting
  2. Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety
  3. Foods That Help Ease Anxiety
  4. What are some foods to ease your anxiety?
  5. Coping with anxiety: Can diet make a difference?
  6. Foods to Help Fight Depression
  7. Depression and Diet
  8. The Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder?
  9. Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  10. Serotonin vs. Dopamine: What Are the Differences?

For daily guidance on healthy choices:

Download the LK Fitness App.

  • Workouts for all levels of fitness, curated by fitness guru Linda Kriel.
  • Meal plans and recipes for Keto/Banting, Low GI and Mediterranean diets.

For advice about which LK Fitness meal plan is best for you: Read this LK Fitness article.