Seasonal Affective Disorder, Winter Blues and Wild Mushrooms


Winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder: are wild mushrooms useful?

During winter, we are more prone to feel lethargic and get the winter blues. Winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) only affect a small percentage of the population, however in its mild form it can be quite common.

We may feel less motivated to go outside, exercise and socialise because it’s colder and there are fewer hours of natural daylight. Symptoms include feeling sluggish, wanting to sleep more, craving starchy foods and having a low mood. These symptoms tend to peak between December and February.

Among the best remedies for mild SAD, going for an outdoor walk is the most effective. The idea is to get some sun exposure for 15-30 minutes to help produce Vitamin D. Walking is a great form of exercise and it can help improve your mood. The best time to go for a walk is midday (or the morning), aiming for at least an hour’s walk at a good pace.

Winter Blues and Vitamin D

Our bodies need Vitamin D for bone health (including preventing osteoporosis) and for our immune system. Vitamin D is also important for brain health. Vitamin D interacts with brain receptors that are linked to depression, affecting the levels of serotonin. While research is still under way, studies have found that Vitamin D has a beneficial effect for mental health, as a lack of Vitamin D may lead to develop depression. For example, a sample group of people with low levels of Vitamin D showed more symptoms of depression that other people with normal levels of Vitamin D.

Getting Vitamin D from Wild Mushrooms

Vitamin D can be found in foods like eggs, dairy products, organ meat and oily fish. Sunlight exposure is the most efficient way to absorb Vitamin D.

Mushrooms contain ergosterol, a precursor of Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) when exposed to sunlight. Wild mushrooms are a better source of Vitamin D than cultivated mushrooms, which are usually grown indoors with no natural light. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, also contain Vitamin D3 and D4. However, placing cultivated mushrooms under direct sunlight (with the underside of the cap facing upward) for an hour or more can increase their Vitamin D content.

Eating wild mushrooms can be equivalent to taking a Vitamin D supplement.

Mushrooms are mostly water (about 92%) and contain small amounts of carbohydrates and protein.

Wild mushrooms provide:

  • Vitamin D
  • potassium
  • Vitamin B2, B3, B5, B6, B9
  • magnesium
  • iron
  • calcium
  • manganese
  • phosphorous
  • selenium
  • copper
  • zinc.

It is worth noting that zinc can help prevent colds and speed up the recovery from a cold.

Blewits To Beat the Winter Blues!

If you are out and about in autumn and winter you will come across some excellent edible mushrooms. You get to have your Vitamin D fix and bring home some delicacies at the same time.

During November and December you can find blewits (Lepista or Clitocybe Nuda and Lepista or Clitocybe Saeva) and trooping funnels (Clitocybe Geotropa) among others.

Field blewits

Blewits grow in lawns and woodland in leaf litter, they have a distinctive purple colour, especially the gills, with the cap turning light brown over time. They smell and taste quite fruity. They are very popular in France where they are called pied bleu (blue foot).

Watch the video about blewits.


trooping funnels
Trooping funnels

Trooping funnels are abundant in woodland during winter until late December and they can resist frost. Their cream-coloured cap can grow quite large and their stem is long and sturdy. Their meaty texture and pleasant flavour work well in many recipes.

Going out for a walk to stock up on winter sun and wild mushrooms is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues.


Recommended Reading: The Foraging Home Cook