7 Foods That Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Hayleigh Scott


As we say goodbye to the warm Christchurch summer and crawl into yet another merciless winter, it won’t be unusual for many of us to see significant seasonal changes taking its toll on our mental health and well-being. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive disorder in which the symptoms align themselves with the seasonal changes, especially pertaining through the colder months.

It’s important you’re meeting all of your nutritional needs and including nutrient-rich foods in your daily diet. By improving dietary choices, you can provide your body and brain with the right tools needed to function optimally. Common treatment options for S.A.D are light therapy and routine exercise, however, some of the most effective combatants can be found right in your kitchen. Here are seven ingredients to help fight those winter blues!

  1. Rolled Oats

Oats are incredibly nutrient-dense and rich in both fibre and antioxidants. Complex carbohydrates like oats have been found to boost serotonin levels, which are responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Whilst hot porridge or oatmeal is an ultimate and easy go-to breakfast, here are some other recipes which exploit the health benefits of rolled oats:

– Oatmeal & Blueberry Muffins: Soak your rolled oats in a cup of milk for 20 minutes and then fold into a muffin batter.  Use honey as an alternative for sugar, or add some chocolate chips. Bake at 220℃ for the first five minutes, then bake at 190℃ for a further 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. For the full recipe, click here.

– Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Whisk rolled oats with Greek yoghurt, milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla essence, honey or maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Seal in an airtight jar, refrigerate overnight and enjoy dessert for breakfast with none of the guilt! Prepare the night before for a convenient morning routine. For the full recipe, click here.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats l Image Credit: namelymarly.com
  1. Eggs

Eggs are rich in the minerals zinc and magnesium which have been shown to ease anxiety. They’re also full of proteins which stabilise blood sugars and metabolism.

– Self Crusting Quiche: Combine whole eggs with grated cheese, chopped onion and bell peppers, milk, self-raising flour, cooking oil, salt and pepper. Add fillings as desired. Pour the mixture into a greased dish and bake for 30-40 minutes at 150℃. For the full recipe, click here.

– Baked Eggs in Stuffed Peppers: Add cheddar cheese, red onion and chopped bacon along with any other fillings into pepper halves, crack an egg on top, and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a greased dish at 200℃ for approximately 20 minutes until the egg white is cooked. For a similar recipe, click here.


Baked Eggs in Stuffed Peppers l Image credit: eatingwell.com

3. Turkey

Turkey contains the chemical Tryptophan, which along with sleepiness has been found to induce feelings of calmness, relaxation, and general contentedness.

– Deli Turkey Sandwich: Opt for sliced turkey in your sandwich, simple but delicious and packed full of S.A.D-combating nutrients!

– Roast Turkey: Enjoy a Sunday roast in true kiwi fashion. In substitute for your normal meat preference, carve up a hot turkey and serve with your favourite starchy vegetables, maybe pumpkin, kumara and beetroot. Don’t forget green peas and GRAVY!  A simple but delicious meal to put a smile on your face!


Deli Turkey & Salad Sandwich l Image credit: mcalistersdeli.com


  1. Dark Chocolate

Cacao is potent in antioxidants, flavanols and methylxanthines: the compounds responsible for that feel-good effect that chocolate supplies. Research has shown dark chocolate can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and profoundly improve your mood.

– Fresh Fruit & Dipping Chocolate: Melt your dark chocolate and serve as a dipping condiment with chopped fruit for a snack or an after-dinner treat. An indulgent treat with optimal nutritional value.

– Healthy Dark Chocolate Granola Bars: Make your own energy snack bars with this simple recipe from minimalistbaker.com! Use a food processor to blend walnuts, pitted dates and cocoa powder. Combine with rolled oats, a cup of raw nuts of your choosing (pecans, almonds, peanuts) and add dark chocolate. Warm honey and nut butter (almond or peanut) gently over a stovetop until pourable and then combine with dry mixture, stirring well until consistent. Transfer into a dish, freeze for 15-20 minutes until hardened, cut into snack-sized bars and satisfy your dessert cravings with an indulgent treat crammed with nutritional value. For the full recipe, click here.


Healthy Chocolate Granola Bars l Image credit: minimalistbaker.com


  1. Salmon

Salmon has a high content of Omega-3 fatty acids which have been found to aid symptoms of depression.

– Smoked Salmon Dip: Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add lemon juice, fresh dill, horseradish, sour cream, salt, freshly ground black pepper, minced smoked salmon and continue to mix well until thoroughly blended. Serve with crackers or spread on french bread.

– Pan-fried Salmon: Season with salt, pepper and paprika and pan fry in butter. Serve on a bed of creamy mashed potato or polenta and a side of steamed green vegetables such as broccolini, asparagus or green beans.


Smoked Salmon Dip l Image credit: aspicyperspective.com


  1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt and other dairy products are rich sources of calcium, Vitamin D and peptides which ease stress and reduce cortisol levels. Exclusively, yoghurt is packed full of probiotics which are known to benefit our gut microbiome. Extensive research has shown a connection between taking care of our microbiome and improved psychological well-being.

– Tangy Guacamole: Make homemade tangy guacamole and serve with corn chips as a delicious snack. Mash three ripe avocados with half a cup of Greek yoghurt, add chopped red onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro, lemon or lime juice and season to taste.

– Yoghurt Parfaits: Fill the bottom third of a wide glass or jar with plain or vanilla yoghurt. Add layers of fresh or defrosted berries and layers of granola. Keep adding alternate layers of yoghurt, fruit and granola and top with shredded coconut. Berries are a great option but if you’re not a fan you can experiment with other fresh or canned fruits and the combinations become endless.


Yoghurt & Fruit Parfaits l Image credit: teluguone.com


  1. Dark Leafy Greens

Vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli are all rich sources of folate which is a known treatment option for depressive symptoms. Folate supplements have been recommended in clinical settings, however, you can also find plenty of this nutrient in your dark leafy greens.

– Kale Pesto Pizza: Make a homemade pizza with kale pesto. In a food processor, blend chopped kale leaves with walnuts or pecans, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and spread pesto evenly over a pizza base. Top with cheese and garnish with more chopped kale leaves. For the full recipe, click here.

– Spinach & Pasta Salad: Cook penne pasta, and toss through a bowl of fresh spinach leaves, basil, chickpeas, chopped tomato, red pepper, broccoli and pumpkin seeds. Add olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, pine nuts and feta or mozzarella. For a similar recipe using bowtie pasta, click here.


Kale Pesto Pizza l Image credit: cookieandkate.com