Keeping happy and healthy through winter

Keeping happy and healthy through winter

Christmas and New Year celebrations are well and truly over, bank accounts are feeling stretched (as are our waistlines!) and there’s still a long way to go until those warm, sunny days start appearing – it’s no wonder many of us feel less-than-great during the first quarter of the year. In fact, it is reported around two million people in the UK experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with seasonal changes, primarily in winter time[1]. Even without SAD, the carry-over of stress from the festive season, pushing to achieve New Year’s resolutions while simultaneously being expected to snap back to normal routines can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and experiencing low moods and anxiety. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that simple dietary changes can help to support the body and brain’s natural processes to lift your mood keeping you happy and healthy through winter.

Can diet really make a difference?

The short answer, is yes! It is common knowledge that nutrients are required to maintain physical health, but many are unaware that vitamins and minerals are also essential for nourishing the brain and nervous system and therefore regulating mood, so much so that deficiencies in certain nutrients have been linked to low mood, poor sleep quality and even mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. While it is important to note that diet alone cannot ‘cure’ poor mental health, it can certainly play an essential role in alleviating it.

Which nutrients can keep you happy and healthy through winter?

Magnesium – Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, and an incredibly important one too. It is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic biochemical reactions and as such its roles are varied, spanning from muscle and nerve function to protein synthesis and blood glucose control[2]. Research demonstrates a clear link between poor sleep and negative mental health outcomes; magnesium plays a pivotal role in sleep quality by regulating the sleep hormone melatonin, and magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve both sleep and mental health outcomes in a number of studies[3].

Vitamin B6 – Like magnesium, vitamin B6 is required for a number of biological processes, aiding in normal psychological function, optimal functioning of the nervous system and has been shown to reduction of tiredness and fatigue, owing to its role in hemoglobin production[4]. This nutrient has been found to have a modulatory impact on central serotonin and GABA production[5], two neurotransmitters known to calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and fear. As a water-soluble nutrient, it must be consumed regularly to avoid deficiency. Unfortunately, foods containing high levels of refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol, like many of us indulge in over the Christmas period (!), are low in B vitamins. As such, some may find their vitamin B6 levels on the low side after the festive season.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, is primarily produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight. Low levels of vitamin D, have been linked to symptoms of both anxiety and depression[6]. While the precise mechanisms are still being debated, its effects on mood could be attributed to its important roles in normal immune and nervous system function[7]. You can learn more about how vitamin D can support positive mood and physical well-being here. Across the UK, vitamin D are low, particularly in winter, as we cannot make enough in the body due to reduced sunlight exposure. As such, the UK government recommend all adults supplement with 10mcg a day over this time.

Can herbal remedies help?

Herbs, spices and adaptogens have been used throughout history to support human health and remedy various ailments and health issues – and that goes for mood regulation, too. Of the thousands of herbal remedies available on the market, two have been found to be of particular interest for supporting emotional wellbeing:

Ashwagandha – Ashwagandha is a traditional plant-based medicine classed as an adaptogen; adaptogens are specific types of herbs and mushrooms which exhibit stress-reducing effects on the body, allowing it to adapt to stress and return to a state of balance. Several studies have demonstrated ashwagandha’s stress-busting effects, including lowering cortisol levels, promoting neurogenesis and regulating blood glucose[8]. To read more about how ashwagandha can support mental health, click here.

Saffron – Another potent therapeutic herb, short-time saffron supplementation has been shown to improve subclinical measures of anxiety, stress, and depressions in adults when compared to placebo[9]. Saffron may exert its antidepressant effect by modulating the levels of certain feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. The medicinal properties of saffron may be attributed to its unique compounds, such as crocetin, crocins, and safranal, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties[10].

Making happy and healthy nutrition easy

To maintain magnesium levels, daily consumption of magnesium-rich foods is advised; these include spinach and nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and almonds. However, most people do not get enough through diet alone due to the decline in soil quality over the years, therefore supplementation can be a helpful alternative. While increasing vitamin D through sunlight exposure can be tricky during the first quarter of the year, spending time outside whenever you can will help; some foods, such as eggs and oily fish, also contain small amounts of vitamin D. To guarantee adequate levels over winter, supplements are available in both capsule and spray form for ease of use.

As for mood-enhancing herbs and adaptogens, the most effective way to incorporate them into your daily routine is to supplement. Our Ashwagandha capsules contain 500mg of gold-standard KSM-66 Ashwagandha, while our Zen capsules provide a calming combination of organic saffron, alongside bioactive forms of magnesium, vitamin B6 and L-Theanine.

In conclusion, there are several vitamins, minerals, herbs and adaptogens that have been associated with improved mental health and wellbeing outcomes. These can be implemented into the daily routine simply through both diet and supplementation to keep us happy and healthy through winter and beyond.


[1] NHS Inform (2023) Beating the winter blues, NHS inform. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2024).

[2] Office Of Dietary Supplements (2022) Magnesium, NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Available at:,%2C%20oxidative%20phosphorylation%2C%20and%20glycolysis. (Accessed: 27 January 2024).

[3] Arab, A. et al. (2022) ‘The role of magnesium in sleep health: A systematic review of available literature’, Biological Trace Element Research, 201(1), pp. 121–128. doi:10.1007/s12011-022-03162-1.

[4] Harvard T.H. Chan (2023) Vitamin B6, The Nutrition Source. Available at:,blood%20levels%20in%20the%20body. (Accessed: 27 January 2024).

[5] Durrani, D. et al. (2022) ‘Vitamin B6: A new approach to lowering anxiety, and depression?’, Annals of Medicine & Surgery, 82. doi:10.1016/j.amsu.2022.104663.

[6] Akpınar, Ş. and Karadağ, M.G. (2022) ‘Is vitamin D important in anxiety or depression? what is the truth?’, Current Nutrition Reports, 11(4), pp. 675–681. doi:10.1007/s13668-022-00441-0.

[7] Menon, V. et al. (2020) ‘Vitamin D and depression: A critical appraisal of the evidence and future directions’, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 42(1), pp. 11–21. doi:10.4103/ijpsym.ijpsym_160_19.

[8] Lopresti, A.L. et al. (2019) ‘An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract’, Medicine, 98(37). doi:10.1097/md.0000000000017186.

[9] Jackson, P.A. et al. (2021) ‘Effects of saffron extract supplementation on mood, well-being, and response to a psychosocial stressor in healthy adults: A randomized, double-blind, Parallel Group, clinical trial’, Frontiers in Nutrition, 7. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.606124.

[10] Pitsikas, N. (2020) ‘Assessment of crocus sativus L., and its bioactive constituents as potential anti-anxiety compounds. basic and clinical evidence’, Saffron, pp. 131–139. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-818462-2.00011-5.

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

Related Blogs:

adaptogensAnxietyashwagandhaB6Brain HealthdepressionEnergymagnesiummental healthSADsaffronsleepsleep qualityStress Managementvitamin d

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