Like many people, Chef Marshall is still adjusting to the ongoing realities of our changed world. What we took for granted: freely going out to eat; having in-person, face-to-face, human interactions; and spending time with friends and family, are still not what they used to be. It is hard and who knows when this will go back to “normal”? This lack of in-person interaction takes a big emotional toll on one’s health.

Fortunately, the seasons are starting to change in Minnesota and the warmer weather and sunshine are brightening our days. What may surprise people is that what we eat can either help boost our mood or cause our moods to spiral downward. Here are five foods we recommend you add to your diet to help boost your mood.

Vitamin D-rich foods – Vitamin D helps regulate mood and stave off seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement between October and May and be sure to consume adequate vitamin D-rich foods, including yogurt, eggs, and mushrooms.

Omega-3 rich foods – Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful mood boosters that can help relieve symptoms of depression, in addition to improving heart health and combatting inflammation. Foods high in omega-3s include salmon, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts.

Folate-rich foods – Folate plays an important role in moderating mood; low levels are associated with depression. In fact, one study showed that as little as one cup of cooked, folate-rich spinach per day helped relieve minor depression. Folate rich foods include beans: garbanzo and kidney, walnuts, fruit, and of course dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and romaine lettuce.

Colorful fruits and vegetables – The color of a food reflects which nutrients it contains, so eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables ensures you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants to keep you energized and buoyant through the dark winter months. Good choices include oranges, grapefruit, berries and winter squash such as acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.

Slow carbs – Most vegetables and whole grains boost serotonin levels, which helps boost our moods. Food choices include sweet potatoes and yams, oats, barley, farro, millet, quinoa, pumpkin, winter squash, brown or wild rice, and spelt.

Make food choices that work for you, not against you. Food plays a powerful role in helping us get through our day, which makes it brighter.