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  • Deb Orosz

Holiday Brain Boosting Foods

1. What are some traditional holiday foods that can boost your brain in some way?

When looking at the buffet table and thinking of mood boosting foods, think of foods rich in Vitamin D and Omega-3s, both of which are linked to depression when low in the body. For many of us the holiday time is spent indoors and we get less sunlight so our Vitamin D levels decline. We need to take a Vitamin D supplement or choose foods rich in Vitamin D to fend off seasonal depression. Salmon is often served at the holidays as an appetizer or even main course. Salmon is rich in both Vitamin D and Omega-3 and can support brain health. When choosing salmon, opt for the wild caught version, which has higher levels of both Vitamin D and omega-3 than the farm raised salmon.


2. Why are these foods effective?

Clinical studies show increasing Vitamin D levels in the blood may alleviate depression and anxiety. Vitamin D receptors have a high concentration in the hypothalamus of the brain which has been identified with depression. Omega -3s are fatty acids, which are used throughout the body. The brain has a high amount of omega-3s in the cell membranes. When the brain’s cell membranes are not optimized with adequate omega-3s, behavior, mood, and mental function can be affected.


3. Are there any typical holiday foods that might contribute to decreased happiness?

The number one contributor to mood issues any time of year is sugar. The holiday sweets combined with the stress of the holidays can challenge our happiness. When we are feeling stressed, we naturally want to reach for sweets, but these are counterproductive for our mental health. All of the holiday sweets are so tempting and do bring an initial mood boost with the elevated blood glucose levels, but the subsequent crash in blood sugar brings down our mood and adds to the seasonal blues.


4. Anything else someone should know about holiday foods and brain benefits?

One of the ways to benefit the brain is through not only food choices but mental body kindness exercises. When looking at the holiday choices, practice mindfulness and take a pause for a meditative moment to decide what you are truly needing in the moment. You may find that this pause allows you to differentiate emotional needs from hunger and to make healthy food choices with more ease and satisfaction. This stress reduction combined with healthy food choices builds brain health.


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