Top 6 foods to beat the winter blues – by guest expert Camilla Cahill APDExpert Examiner — By Emma Stirling on April 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm
As the days shorten and the air cools in the Southern Hemisphere, our mood can often slide leaving us with a case of “winter blues”. We all know that food is a source of warmth and comfort, but did you know certain nutrients can actually increase serotonin levels and boost your mood? No matter where you live or what season you’re in, you’ll want our top 6 mood boosters on your plate:
Camilla is a graduate dietitian from the University of Newcastle and the April Scoop Sub of the Month. She is currently undertaking an eight week project at Nestle working with the Brand Nutritionist and has recently completed a course in Social Media Marketing. Check out her bio here.
There is a lot of talk around the health benefits of oily fish – and for good reason! As you probably know oily fish are rich in omega-3s, an essential fatty acid, best known for heart health protection. But omega-3’s also protect the outer covering of brain cells from degeneration so that optimal levels of serotonin can be achieved. Serotonin regulates mood and helps to maintain a regular sleep cycle. So make sure you get 2-3 fish meals a week all year round. I love tuna and salmon steamed, baked, tinned or in sushi. Yum. A symposium by the Omega-3 Centre, Mental Health, Cognition and Omega-3s, gives interesting insights into where the science is heading, if you’d like to read more.
Ode to oysters
Oysters are one of the richest natural sources of zinc. Increasing zinc in your diet can boost mood and improve mental function. Napoleon Bonaparte loved oysters and would reportedly eat several dozen in one sitting. He must have been one happy fellow (or just a bit of a lush). Wouldn’t you love to rock up to the Oyster Shuck Truck to get your fill? Source: thesweetestoccasion.com via Emma on Pinterest
Time for turkey?
Turkey is rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is used by our body to make serotonin. It is also very low in fat and makes a nice change to chicken. Have you seen Ingham’s new turkey cuts including super lean steaks and mince? They also have some fab recipes like this Turkey Breast Steak with Caper Sauce or Minced Turkey with Black Bean Noodles.
Spinach for inner strength
Folate, or folic acid, is one of the B group vitamins which help to improve mood and cognitive function. A study involving 9670 participants from the SUN cohort found significant positive association between low folate intake and the prevalence of depression in men. But rather than rushing into supplements, the UK Mind Guide to Mood and Food recommends you go for whole foods first and see a nutrition expert for assessment. I love some wilted spinach on wholegrain toast which provides about 160ug (40% RDI) folate. Or how about salad in a jar with baby spinach leaves?
You don’t want to be near me when I’m hungry. I’m not very nice. Nasty even. Have you seen the Snickers ad with the slogan “you’re not you when you’re hungry?” Spot on Snickers! But don’t reach for a quick fix. Control your appetite with low glycemic index (GI) wholegrains like rye bread which steadily releases glucose and helps to keep your mood in check. Wholegrains are also an excellent source of the B group vitamins including thiamine, B6 and B12 which are known mood-boosters.
Go Grains Health and Nutrition commissioned a national study tracking the consumption of grain-based foods over a 2 year period (2009 – 2011). “Over the past two years, our consumption of bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, noodles and rice has declined while mixed meals, takeaway foods and snack bars have increased. Almost one third (28%) of grain-based food intakes currently come from mixed meals and takeaway foods, cakes and pastries” said Robyn Murray, CEO of the renamed Grains and Legume Council. Worryingly, the study also highlighted a misconception that consumers, particularly young (15-24 year old) females, believe consumption of grain-based foods may contribute to weight gain. This could be putting their health and wellbeing at risk by missing out on essential nutrients.
Regular exercise and sleep are also very important for our mental health. Outdoor exercise exposes you to sunlight and increases your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps stabilise mood, improve cognitive function and prevent fatigue. But if you can’t face the chilly air for an outdoor run, even just sitting outside during your lunch break will be beneficial. Check out the Scoop post on vitamin D including food sources, plus the best way to strike a healthy balance with vitamin D and get your little ray of sunshine.
Fad dieting, junk food, sugar binges, alcohol and too much caffeine are also not good for our mental health. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve done all of these things. So to finish off let me share some of my “inexperiences”. To complete uni assignments I would often fuel my brain with coffee and lollies which would send me into a typing frenzy! For about 10 minutes. I would then spend the next 2 hours panicking, crying and being generally unproductive. I’m all for a little sweet treat, but you can certainly have too much of a yummy thing. Source: rowhousenest.com via Emma on Pinterest
The bottom line? There is no quick fix. Strike a healthy balance and your good mood is more likely to follow.
Thanks Camilla, it’s been great having you on board this month and sharing social media tips. Your food mood hints are very helpful. Mental health is a serious matter, that is not talked about enough. And the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder is a recognised medical condition. If you are feeling down or think that you have an unusual mood swing or reaction to certain foods, make sure you talk to a health professional. Make an appointment with your GP who may refer you to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian or a Psychologist. But how about you lovely readers? We bet you have some fab tips to survive the cold months? I’ll admit to wearing my training gear to bed as pjs to avoid the 5:30am freezing cold undress.