Eating Spuds Could Lighten SAD Winter Blues

May 15, 2004 - Eating steamed potatoes could be more effective than anti-depressant drugs in treating winter depression, new research has found.

Eating steamed potatoes could be more effective than anti-depressant drugs in treating winter depression, new research has found.Winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is believed to develop from a lack of bright light during the winter months.

Bright light changes the chemicals in the brain but how this occurs and its effects are still being studied.

Serotonin, dubbed the happy hormone, and other nutrients such as folate are generally deficient in people who suffer depression.

The Australian Centre of Neuropsycotherapy has found that steam cooked potatoes could provide greater use of serotonin for treating the disorder than taking anti-depressants.

Steam cooking potatoes resulted in the highest retention of amino acids compared to other cooking methods studied.

The centre found nutritional factors played a key role in the onset of depression, and eating more foods containing necessary vitamins could ease symptoms.

The centre's director Rod Markham said the best time to eat steamed potatoes was three hours after a protein dinner to make the best use of tryptophan which can boost serotonin levels.

"If people exercise, have enough bright light exposure during the day and have a good social network and nutrition intake, they could actually perhaps, if not totally, give up anti-depressants such as Prozac," he said.

A range of factors contribute to depression including child abuse and poverty.

"Factors contributing to different types of mental depression is irrational thinking, ... cold winters, possible child abuse, feelings of alienation from others, poverty, genetics, pregnancy, deficiencies in nutrients and the utilisation of these nutrients such as tryptophan and folate," Mr Markham said.

"Cognitive behaviour therapy is also very useful when combined with bright light or sunlight therapy, some exercise and nutrition."

Eating more complex carbohydrates like potatoes, broccoli, pasta and brown rice could boost serotonin activity in the brain.

Depressed people also often lack folic acid and should eat more asparagus, beetroot, avocado, cabbage, beans, lentils and oranges.

Magnesium, contained in spinach, chocolate, oysters and some nuts, could also ease symptoms of depression by acting as a muscle relaxant, the centre said.

Depression is currently the fifth leading cause of death and disability, according to World Health Organisation figures.

It is often genetic and affects about twice as many women as men.

next: Relationship Between Depression and Eating Disorders
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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2004, May 16). Eating Spuds Could Lighten SAD Winter Blues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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