How can we eat ourselves happy in the colder, darker months?
Over the winter months our exposure to sunlight can decrease dramatically, especially for those who work 9-5 in an office, warehouse or work from home with little exposure to natural sunlight. Factor in the cold, wet weather and the outcome could be SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.)
With some symptoms being a low mood and a decreased desire to socialize, as well as difficulty concentrating and a lack of energy due to vitamin deficiency, it's important to keep your body and mind nourished to help prevent SAD taking it's toll.
What is SAD?
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder typically starts to occur during Autumn, when it starts to go dark around 4pm and our exposure to sunlight dramatically decreases. As sunlight helps our skin to produce vitamin D3, that helps to keep our bones strong, it’s also thought to help the brain release serotonin, the feel good hormone.
Lack of exposure to natural sunlight during the cold and rainy seasons can leave us feeling depressed, sluggish and unable to focus. Not useful if you’re working from home during lockdown!
How to combat SAD
Luckily there are a few ways which we can tackle SAD, one being eating the right foods to boost your mood. Fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals are important in maintaining a healthy body and mind, especially now more than ever during these tough times that have had a detrimental effect on our mental health.
It’s also important, if possible, to get outside for at least an hour everyday. Exposure to natural sunlight not only helps us feel better, but helps us sleep better too. Whether it’s a gentle walk outside or a fast jog, exercise can help regulate our sleep patterns which in turn leaves us feeling refreshed and focused when we wake up.
What we eat effects how we feel, so we've put together a guide on the best foods to help beat the blues this winter.
A tasty snack for on the go, nuts have a number of health benefits that you may not be aware of. Despite being high in (healthy) fat, nuts are a great source of Vitamin E, magnesium and selenium. Sprinkled over porridge, mixed in with a stir fry or eaten out of the palm of your hand, nuts such as cashews, Brazil and walnuts can help give you that much needed lift.
Studies have shown that dark chocolate contains antioxidants which help to protect our bodies from free radicals. Not only that, but it can also boost blood flow to the brain and help prevent inflammation. High quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70-85% is also brimming with nutrients including potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
The perfect pick me up for an afternoon slump at work, nibble on a few squares of this for an instant mood boost. Alternatively grate over porridge in the morning, stir into chilli (yes really!) or melt some down and leave to set with some overnight oats. Guilt free chocolate with added health benefits? We're there!
Packed with protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, eating oily fish such as sardines, tuna and mackerel can help boost your brain function and studies have shown that people who eat fish are less likely to become depressed.
Be sure to get at least one helping of oily fish a week with a generous helping of vegetables to top up those vitamin levels and help you stay focused.
An excellent source of fibre and high in natural sugars, bananas also contain a large amount of vitamin B6, which help our brain to produce the feel good hormones serotonin and dopamine. The high fibre content in bananas help to release sugar slowly into the bloodstream, which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and control your mood. When blood sugar levels are low this can result in mood swings and low energy.