Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with superfoods!
Tuesday 16 October 2012
Seasonal Affective Disorder - also known as winter depression - is a condition in which our external environment affects our wellbeing - meaning you feel unusually low when the weather is bad. Natalie Imbruglia admitted that she suffered from SAD after a stay in wet and windy London, confessing that she missed the hot weather from her home country Australia.
SAD affects people to varying degrees, but if you find that your outlook takes a downward turn during bad weather, there’s a chance that you could be suffering from it - a consultation with your GP can confirm that you are. Take a look at the tips below to ensure you don't suffer...
Along with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, some sufferers can be motivated to comfort eat, which can cause feelings of low self-esteem and poor body image.
What’s more, the cold weather sends us into hibernation mode, causing us to crave sugary carbs and fatty foods to ‘insulate’ us, which can cause our blood sugar to spike, leaving us even more miserable.
However, there are things you can add to your diet to get your fix of comfort food, without piling on the calories! Here are the SAD-busting superfoods that can help keep you healthy and happy over the winter months:
Oily fish – it’s one of those things that needs repeating over and over again: oily fish is ridiculously good for you, so give it a try! The omega-3 fatty acids it contains have been used in studies of people with depression with positive results; while scientists are still figuring out exactly how they help, it's thought that omega-3s soften brain cell membranes, making it easier for feel-good hormones to pass through them. If you can't stand fish, try a supplement.
Almonds – these are rich in the minerals calcium and magnesium, which have been found to ease anxiety and other stress-related ailments. Plus, they'll help to fill you up, as they're high in protein, low in saturated fat, and high in fibre.
Try stirring a tablespoon of ground almonds into your porridge, or snacking on a small handful mid-afternoon to sustain your energy levels before dinner.
Eggs – these protein-packed foods are brilliant for balancing your blood sugar levels, and despite previous controversy over cholesterol (where it was incorrectly concluded that you should only eat two a week), they're fine to eat whenever you like. They're also a source of folic acid, which can improve your mood. Try them scrambled for breakfast or in a sarnie at lunch.
Cereals - the complex carbohydrates found in cereals are broken down slowly in the stomach, meaning you get a steady release of energy that regulates your mood and stops that mid-morning blood sugar crash. Look for the 'whole grain' label when you're shopping, and try and stick to varieties that are low in sugar. A bowl of cereal in the morning or as a mid-afternoon snack is a brilliant pick-me-up - if you don't want the washing up at work, try it at the weekends!
Sweet potatoes – like eggs, these are rich in folates, and also contain vitamin B6, which assists the body in balancing its neurotransmitters (the substances in your brain that affect your mood). They contain a little bit more fibre than regular potatoes as well, as well as less starch (which doesn't necessarily make you feel full). Try them roasted as an alternative in your Sunday dinner - there's less fat involved in cooking them, too!
Brazil nuts – these are a great source of the mineral selenium, of which low levels are detected in depressed people. They are also rich in vitamin E - something that depressed people, particularly females, tend to be low on. If you can bear to, opt for the kind that aren’t chocolate-covered - you only need two or three to get your recommended daily allowance of selenium!
Leafy green vegetables – we’re sick of munching through endless salads for very little benefit, but if you swap your iceberg lettuce for spinach or chard, you’ll get a hefty dose of brain-boosting B vitamins to make it worthwhile! Seasonal vegetables such as kale and pak choi are also worth looking out for - they have a similar taste and texture, but have high levels of iron (low levels of which can make you feel physically and mentally exhausted). Try them in a stir-fry or cooked as part of a warm chicken salad.
Avocados – they’re perfectly ripe at this time of year, so stock up! Avocados are rich in depression-fighting magnesium, vitamin B6 and folates, but also get you a good dose of monounsaturated fat (that's 'good' fat that helps boost your metabolism and lower your cholesterol). They're a healthy addition to salads, or mashed up on wholemeal toast as a vegetarian breakfast.
The principles of healthy eating are a sound way to beat depression and low moods, as your blood sugar and energy levels hold a lot of influence over your well-being - if you coast through the day on coffee, cigarettes and candy, you'll feel a lot worse than if you eat three meals a day with some healthy snacks.
So stick to low-GI carbs like wholegrains, eat a couple of portions of protein a day and stick to good fats over saturated ones.For a GI plan that's made for the foods you like to eat, visit CloserDiets.com.
Try to stay active, too - if you can't bear working out in cold weather, consider taking an indoor aerobics or dance class. Daily activity such as brisk walking, a quick jog or some yoga in front of the TV can all boost your mood.
If you feel as though you aren’t getting enough daylight due to work or lifestyle commitments and the darkness is making you miserable, try walking to work, having a stroll on your lunch hour, or point your work computer towards a window to soak up a bit of natural light.
If you feel as though your low moods or low self-esteem are taking over, or if you've had them for longer than three months, see your GP as soon as you can.
Closer Diets' team of nutritional experts has devised a Party Dress diet plan that will help you slim a little faster in time to fit into your LBD this Christmas. Healthy and delicious, this low-cal meal plan will help you zap the fat and tone up without going hungry.
But don't worry, this is not a fad! Each day, you get to enjoy three main mails and two snacks - so you won't ever go hungry! Head to Closerdiets.com if you're looking to lose weight.
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