It’s tough to stay healthy in winter – the season of comfort eating and bleak icy weather. And many of us are finding that we’re more susceptible than ever to the annual winter lurgies thanks in no small part to the extended period of Covid social distancing and hyper-vigilance that not only reduced coronavirus infections, but also gave our immune systems respite from a myriad of other nasties.
So it’s no surprise that lots of people feel a bit down in the dumps come winter, particularly in a country with a climate like the UK. It’s dark, wet, windy, and cold. Did you know however that there’s also a clinically proven depression, known as a seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D., that’s related to the changes in the seasons?
Shockingly, nearly a third of British adults experience the symptoms of SAD during the winter months. For most people, SAD will tend to start and end at about the same time every year, with symptoms including lethargy, irritability, and a persistent low mood.
Treatments for SAD include lifestyle measures, such as getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly, and even managing your diet. Some of these are considerably difficult to achieve during the winter months. So we’re going to focus on your diet in this post and share our recommended foods you should eat to battle those winter blues.
Bananas are fantastic fruit because they’re cheap, tasty, and good for you in a whole range of different ways. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B6, and C. They are also an excellent supply of fiber, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and carbohydrate.
It also comes in extra handy for battling the winter blues by containing the amino acid tryptophan. This essential amino acid is converted into the hormone serotonin, which is considered a natural mood stabilizer that can also boost bodily functions such as eating, sleeping, and digestion.
There are plenty of ‘super’ fruit and vegetables that come with a plethora of health benefits to keep your immune system tip-top. The benefits aren’t just physical either, with studies showing that 80% of employees working in offices with corporately sponsored fruit baskets noted a distinct ‘improvement in quality of life at the office.
Human Resources across the twenty organizations involved in the study also reported an overall reduction in employee sick days taken and the vast majority of workers interviewed reported that they felt significantly ‘more valued as an employee of the business’.
2. Oily Fish
Eating a regular supply of oily fish, at least one portion or around 140g a week, can lower blood pressure, reduce fat build-up in the arteries and bring a whole host of other health benefits. As well as our bodies, fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are also good for keeping our brains healthy.
Did you know that about 60% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of fat, with about 30% of that being omega-3? People who are deficient in omega-3 can be more susceptible to depression and low mood, so when winter comes along they can be left battling the effects of SAD even more acutely. Eating oily fish once a week will provide the necessary source of omega-3 the body needs and help to keep our brains flexible, allowing the brain’s messaging chemicals to work more effectively.
Staying topped up on Omega 3 also helps to slow the age-related decline of mental faculties and some studies have shown the mighty fatty fish can also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and similar brain diseases.
Another symptom of SAD is low energy levels. Oats can be a serious ally in your battle against this lethargy thanks to the slow and regular way they release energy into the bloodstream. This steady release of energy helps to stabilize blood pressure and mood by avoiding the energy surges and crashes that can be experienced with other foods that are high in refined sugars (like biscuits, pastries, and doughnuts. You know all the tasty things that you like to have with your coffee every morning break).
You may be sick of hearing it but the risks of the sugar spike are very real and worthy of your concern and you may not fully understand why. Of course, the overall amount of sugar you consume is a key health metric in weight gain but looking beyond this, the mismanagement of our blood sugar levels is one of the primary contributing factors to extended binge eating as our body desperately tries to regain blood sugar control.
The practice of binge eating to sustain an unnaturally high blood sugar level can lay a foundation of negative eating habits that can (and often does) last for a lifetime, with the long-term fallout from this relationship ranging from diabetes to an early death from heart failure. Sorry to get so heavy on you just now, but the threat is real, and sugar-coating the truth (if you’ll excuse the poorly timed pun) does not help any of us.
So bottom line folks are – please eat your oats! If you need additional convincing you’ll be happy to learn that oats are also a source of the mood-boosting mineral selenium, a powerful antioxidant that’s associated with a wide range of benefits for the mind and body.
Do you suffer from the winter blues? What are your go-to pick-me-ups? We’d love you to share your views with our readers in the comments section below.