Winter is, well … here!
Ah, gotta love a reference to GoT.! 🙂
Game of Thrones to those rare few who may not know what I mean.
While the popular show may have officially wrapped up, the hard truth is, winter is here!
For a sun-lover and cold-weather-hater like me (partly why I moved to sunny Queensland from freezing, moody Melbourne!), it’s probably my most dreaded time of the year.
The days are cold, short and dark, and the lack of sunshine leaves me feeling a little blue.
It’s not uncommon to sing the blues during winter.
Coined S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’ and occurs when your mood drops in the cooler and darker months.
So, is the outlook dark and dreary or is there a way we can help to lift our moods this winter?
You can help lift your mood through the food that you eat.
There are certain chemicals in the body that play a role in mood regulation and these include Serotonin (aka the happy hormone), which is involved in boosting your mood, and Dopamine, which is a chemical messenger involved in reward, motivation, attention and in regulating body movement.
And yep, you guessed it – these little chemicals are affected by the food you eat.
Salmon’s superpower is its omega-3 content. This healthy fat is made up of the fatty acids, E.P.A. and D.H.A., and both fatty acids support the optimal functioning of serotonin.
E.P.A. helps the release of serotonin by reducing inflammation, while D.H.A. makes serotonin receptors more accessible to, well, serotonin improving the overall functional capacity of this happy hormone.
Oven-baked salmon (with slices of fresh lemon, rosemary sprigs and a seasoning of salt and pepper) is a great way to enjoy salmon. Add this to some loaded salad and you’re onto a winner.
Eggs are little power-houses of nutrition!
They are a great source of B vitamins (like vitamin B12), which have been shown to play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect our mood.
They are a rich source of protein and the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, which are precursors of mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine.
Eggs also contain vitamin D. It has been said that a deficiency in this vitamin is linked with decreased levels of serotonin.
What’s better than poached eggs with some smashed avocado and fresh bread for brunch on a Sunday morning! Yum.
Legumes like black beans are loaded with gut-loving fibre! We all know that your health starts in your gut, and research is now showing the link between a healthy gut and mood!
It has been said that a large amount of serotonin and dopamine is made in the gut, so making your gut healthy should be your priority.
Because I personally don’t eat meat (or dairy) due to my skin issues, legumes (like black beans) are my staples! I add them to everything – soups, salads, in tacos, mashed and thrown into a sandwich. You name it, I’ve probably tried it.
Broccoli is an excellent source of magnesium, and this critical mineral has a lot of significant roles in the body.
Magnesium has been shown to relieve P.M.S. symptoms, plays a role in thyroid function, aids the nervous system and boosts serotonin levels.
One way to increase your intake of this mighty mineral is through green leafy vegetables like broccoli!
This little superhero is great in just about any dish … and you can certainly get a whole lot more creative with it than just, well, ‘chicken and broc!’. As with legumes and lentils, I throw this little bad boy into just about everything, but in salads and soups, that’s probably my fave way to have it!
Turkey is more than just protein! It’s also a good source of B-vitamins, including vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 plays a role in the production of serotonin, and it has been said the deficiencies in this vitamin may lead to low mood, irritability and anxiety.
Turkey is also a great source of zinc, which plays a role in converting the amino acid, tryptophan to serotonin.
This lean protein is not just for Christmas dinner. Have it in sandwiches or wraps or in tacos. It’s a great alternative to chicken and beef; lean and a good way to get in your B-6 and zinc this winter.
There are, of course, other foods that will help to boost your mood this winter. These five are just a few that will help.
The key is to enjoy a varied diet, with foods from each of the food groups.
Base your diet around plant foods (particularly green leafy veg!), make sure to include plenty of gut-loving fibre, good quality, complex carbs, some protein and don’t forget the healthy fats!
If you’re not sure how to get the balance right and you’d like some help, contact me for an appointment today! I’d love to help 🙂
If you find that you struggle with SAD or have any issues with anxiety or depression, contact Beyond Blue or call 1300 22 4636.