I've always gotten the winter blues, but one year it was the worst ever. Like, really bad.
This was during my training to become a certified health coach and we were encouraged to experiment with different kinds of diets.
Unfortunately, I chose January to go vegan.
Not the smartest timing.
Not only did I learn that depriving yourself of warming animal products during a time when you should be nutritionally taking care of yourself even more than usual feels pretty miserable (and cold!), I decided (because I do things like I mean it) to also stop taking my fish oil pills for the month.
Because I’m vegan now, right?
The results weren't pretty.
When I finally went back to eating normally (praise the Lord!) and taking fish oil again, I felt like a new woman.
Ok, I've always been susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), but for years I'd also been taking fish oil pills, so I was always able to make it through winter relatively unscathed.
A few tropical vacations also helped ;)
S.A.D. has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain, stimulated by shorter daylight hours and a lack of sunlight in winter.
S.A.D. is also linked to carb cravings and weight gain.
But back to the fish oil…
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which promote proper brain and nerve function. Recent studies also suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may be helpful in maintaining a healthy emotional balance.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: AHA (alpha-linoleic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
AHA is plant-based (think flaxseed, chia and hemp), while DHA and EPA are marine-based. For the most effective type of omega-3, choose marine-based.
To go a step further, Dr. Perlmutter (a neurologist and author of the books Grain Brain and Brain Maker), recommends 1,000 mg a day of DHA.
It may also be necessary to up your intake of vitamin D in the winter. Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure.
Makes sense right? Since you aren't sunning your buns in the winter, your body isn't going to be making vitamin D on it's own. I go from 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 in warmer weather to 4,000 IU in colder.
You might be wondering why I didn't supplement with a vegan source of omega-3. Well, I did the next year (while continuing to eat delicious animal products) and I started to careen down the same S.A.D. path once again, until I went back on the fish oil.
But a more fun way to get omega-3 is through food! (You knew I was gonna say that, right?)
One of the highest sources of omega-3, aside from wild salmon, is sablefish (also called black cod or butterfish).
It's rich and buttery. In the recipe below I gilded that omega-3 lily by coating the fish in sprouted flax meal and I perfumed it with luscious, nostalgic nutmeg.
Savor it and smile :)
Info credit: Andrew Weil, Dr. Mercola and Psychology Today
Flax-Meal Crusted Sablefish + Quick Arugula Salad
Ingredients for the crusted sablefish
-2 tbsp flax meal
-1 tbsp ground nutmeg
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 or 2 tbsp ghee (or grass-fed butter)
-2 sablefish filets (I get mine from Vitalchoice.com)*
Ingredients for the salad
-1 tbsp apple cider vinegar with "the mother"
-1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-pinch of salt
-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-1/2 of a 5 oz package of pre-washed arugula
Directions for the sablefish
1. Combine the flax meal, ground nutmeg and salt in a dish and press the tops of the sablefish filets into the mixture.
2. Heat a pan over medium heat, add the ghee and then place the filets into the pan crusted-side down; cook for 3 minutes, flip, cover the pan and cook for another 3 minutes; turn the heat off and remove the pan from the hot burner; allow the fish to rest in the pan with the lid on for another 3 minutes and serve.
Directions for the salad
1. Add the vinegar, blackstrap molasses, nutmeg and salt to a salad bowl and combine with a whisk; once combined, slowly whisk in the olive oil.
2. Add the arugula to the bowl and toss to combine.
*Just a heads up. I'm a proud Vital Choice affiliate. I've loved their products for a couple of years now, so it recently made sense to start working with them. If you purchase the sablefish through the link above, I'll earn a small commission. And just so you know, I don't endorse anything as an affiliate unless I use it myself.