Nootropics: Magical Ingredient to Avoid Winter Blues?

Posted On Nov 26, 2019 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Salmon, nuts, and a salad on a table.

With days getting shorter and cold wintry days ahead of us, the limited sunshine of the impeding winter months leaves our bodies and minds craving sunshine. Depending on where you live, seasonal blues or not feeling quite as peppy and motivated as normal can affect all of us, and even more so during the winter months and throughout the holidays. Enter nootropics, a new functional food ingredient being added to everything from coffee to specially formulated supplements, comprised of a cocktail of “feel-good” herbs and botanicals.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also deemed as “smart drugs”, are mood-enhancing chemicals with little to no side effects that are also touted as memory enhancers and improvers of overall brain function, creativity and motivation. Sounds good…sign me up! Who couldn’t use a little extra push in motivation and focus?

The list of nootropic substances in supplements and food is long, ranging from more well-known ingredients like ginseng and ginko balboa to CDP-choline and L-theanine. Even small doses of caffeine are considered to be a nootropic because of its ability to increase focus and energy levels.

Where can you find nootropics?

Nootropics are being added to coffee and coffee drinks, chocolate chews, and made into elixirs with added ingredients like honey for flavor and appeal. Nootropic compounds are also found in many foods, including leafy greens, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, and berries, to name a few. In other words, a whole-foods based diet.

Do nootropics work?

Just like many ingredients and chemicals, our brain function involves complex processes and a multitude of interactions with hormones and nutrients affected by diet, heredity, environmental factors, stress, physical activity, and sleep. Singling out individual ingredients to research is difficult, if not impossible so science is still on the fence with determining how effective additional nootropics are. More isn’t always better or won’t necessarily boost anyone into a happy motivated creative mood with the pop of a pill. That being said, many people report they notice a difference after they take a nootropic with no side effects.

It might be worth a try but other ways to increase “happy” hormones are exercise, deep breathing and eating a wholesome nutritious diet to provide the building blocks for hormones involved in brain function. Also getting enough sleep (7-8 hours/night), keeping alcohol intake in check, and managing stress aid in happy hormone production and overall mood and outlook.

My advice: EXERCISE is the best happiness booster you can take with zero risk of undesired side effects! Even taken in small doses of 10 minutes, exercise has the power to boost focus, motivation, and mood. Take daily for best results.