In winter it’s not unusual as the skies darken for our mood to follow. Usually our diet changes so we’re eating heartier food and often our hydration and physical activity levels decline. There are ways we can change our eating to try and elevate our mood. Here are some eating tips to make sure you’re not feeling snowed under.
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.
Drink plenty of water so you don’t become dehydrated. As the temperature increases often alongside our alcohol consumption, the risk of becoming parched increases. Dehydration makes us feel tired and lethargic and simply filling up your water glass is an easy fix.
It’s tempting to look to caffeine to get rid of that blah feeling. This is fine in moderation to increase alertness but having more than three cups of coffee a day will not only make you dehydrated but it will further decrease your alertness. Caffeine can also often be responsible for making us feel more agitated as our levels increase.
Some B vitamins have been shown to have a strong link to our mood. Decreased levels of folate and B12 have been linked with a risk of depression. Vitamin B6 can help elevate your mood as it assists with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Foods high in B12 include meat, fish, dairy and poultry. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, fortified breads and cereals, legumes and nuts. Vitamin B6 is found in fish, eggs, pork, wholegrain, nuts, avocados, soy and banana.
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.
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 and fish and green leafy vegetables. Avoid caffeine close to consuming your iron rich foods as this inhibits its absorption. Selenium is 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.
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.
Our diet can have a big effect on our mood just as how we feel can have a large influence on what we eat. Some of the effects are due to a lack of nutrients in our food, dehydration or our body trying to rid itself of alcohol, additives or too much sugar or saturated fat. Other effects may be due to associated feelings of pleasure, reward or guilt with treats and alcohol.
In winter the snuggle is real but try to get out and continue your exercise. 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. There’s snow way you won’t feel better if you make these changes.