Towards the end of winter, it’s not unusual to feel a bit blah. As our diet changes through the cooler months our energy levels drop. The days often drag as we wait for that much needed break. There are ways we can change our eating to try and elevate our mood.
The ability to focus and concentrate comes from an adequate supply of energy. Our natural source of energy is carbohydrate, which provides glucose for our brain and muscles. Eating low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrate – which are foods that release glucose slowly – will improve how we feel.
Wholegrains are a great low GI source as they also assist with the release of tryptophan, which makes the feel good hormone serotonin. Other good low GI choices are whole fruits such as apples and oranges, low fat dairy products such as milk and yoghurt and vegetables and legumes like sweet potato, kidney beans, baked beans and chickpeas.
Eating foods that are high in tryptophan will help lift your spirits. Great sources of tryptophan include dairy such as milk and cheese. Also, sesame and pumpkin seeds and peanuts, soy and tofu. Turkey and chicken are also high in tryptophan as is fish. Choose oily fish that will also be high in omega-3 and vitamin D.
Vitamin B6 can help elevate your mood as it assists with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Vitamin B6 is found in fish, eggs, pork, wholegrain, nuts, avocados, soy and banana. Decreased levels of folate and B12 have been linked with a risk of depression. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, fortified breads and cereals, legumes and nuts. Foods high in B12 include meat, fish, dairy and poultry.
Selenium is also linked to feelings of depression and other negative mood states. Eat plenty of nuts, meat, fish and seeds and wholemeal bread to ensure your levels are adequate. It’s also important to keep iron levels up. Low iron levels make us feel weak, tired and lethargic. Eat plenty of red meat, poultry, fish and green leafy vegetables.
Drink plenty of water so you don’t become dehydrated. Dehydration makes us feel tired and lethargic and simply filling up a water glass is an easy fix. Don’t be tempted to warm those hands with too many lattes either. Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day will not only make you dehydrated but it will also further decrease your alertness.
Alcohol is a depressant and too much through this period will leave you feeling gloomy. Hangxiety and boozanoia are not medical terms but science proves that the chemicals in our brain are altered after heavy drinking. As our blood alcohol level decreases we feel fatigue, confusion and depression. Serotonin levels are often altered for days after a big drinking session.
Winter can lead to feelings of melancholy that can be hard to shake. Try to eat regular low GI carbohydrate and plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and oily fish to maintain your nutrients. Watch your alcohol intake and drink plenty of water. This should help you beat the blues and make it easy to skip into spring.