Its Monday, a day where the blues can seem all too real. Fear not because there are a lot of things you can do to avoid feeling blue primarily practicing self-care. One aspect of this means really caring about what you put into your body.
Forget fad diets and temporary fixes if you choose deeply nourishing foods instead of depriving yourself of a list of foods you can’t have you will feel fulfilled in every way helping to alleviate the cravings and avoid the pitfalls that come with a poor diet and lifestyle.
What you eat also affects your immunity, your mood, your sleep patterns and of course your weight. So even though it can be tempting to indulge in processed, high carb and sugary foods on dark cold nights it will only lead to dark days because your body needs good nutrition to be happy and every cell counts!
So what do we need to do during colder months? Well we need to eat more cooked and warming foods, include more soups and stews in our diets, use more spices, eat seasonal veggies and fruits, eat a rainbow, have more wholegrains and of course get more rest. I’ll be sharing some recipes over the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out.
There is another major reason though for cravings and overeating, which is outside of our control and that is we have less sunlight in winter. This can cause some people to suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. It is said that up to 20% of people can suffer from seasonal depression or mood change so lets look at ways that we can help ourselves fell better naturally with diet and lifestyle choices.
Making sure you get some natural light during the day is really important during the winter months. A lot of people leave their houses when it’s dark and return after work when it’s dark. If you are working in an office environment, stores, hospitals etc with artificial lights you might go all day in the winter with no natural light of any kind. For this reason it’s really important that you get outside during your breaks for a short walk. Wrap up warm and take a short walk at lunchtime when the sun (if we have it) is brightest.
Taking as little as 5 minutes to work on your inner world each day can have an enormous difference on your health. Meditation has so many benefits including stress reduction, better mood, better sleep. It boost immunity, helps with craving and personally I find it gives an overall feeling of inner peace. Check out my guided meditations here or if you are a mum join my Minding Mum group for weekly live meditations and don’t forget that kids can join in too!!
PICK THE RIGHT CARBS
Less sun means a drop in your “feel-good” hormone serotonin, which can cause depression and food cravings. To help combat this you can boost your serotonin with healthy complex carbs like wholegrain breads, brown rice, veggies like sweet potato, corn and pumpkin, beans, lentils and peas. Your children will probably be craving carbs too so try and steer them away from the bad carbs like white breads, rice and sugar. These foods have little or no nutrients and they actually wipe your energy levels. They can also contribute to SAD and mood swings and can be a factor in brain fog and your ability to concentrate. Tryptophan also coverts to the neurotransmitter serotonin so increasing foods like eggs, nuts, turkey, banana, seeds and spirulina may improve depression symptoms too.
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE
You can thank the Far East for the sensory delight that spices bring. Spices not only introduce vibrance and colour into your diet but they also boost immunity and circulation during the winter months. Cook with onions, turmeric, cinnamon, chili peppers, cardamom, curry, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic to add a little warmth to your meals and to help winter proof your body from the inside out.
EAT FOR IMMUNITY
The guys you need on your team here are vitamin C, Zinc and probiotics yes you heard me probiotics. Not all bacteria are bad in fact we have millions of bacteria in our gut that help us to stay healthy by stimulating the immune system and helping with the absorption of essential nutrients. To help these guys grow in numbers and keep your digestive system healthy feed them with foods like kimchi, live yogurt, kefir and kombucha or you can take a supplement too Terranova probiotics are great.
Another tip to help families boost their immune systems is to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene (vitamin A). So citrus fruits are fab as well as broccoli, sweet potato, spinach and cabbage, green leafy veg and frozen peas.
I find frozen peas great for kids and they can be added to most meals. These foods are front line defense against colds and infections. Zinc is important too so again your green leafy veg, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, tofu, almonds and wholegrains. Chicken, eggs, fish and dairy products also contain zinc. Zinc is responsible for 100’s of biochemical functions in the body and because of nutrient losses in the soil these days and in food processing deficiency or depletion can be common. Among its many important functions one in particular is that it is part of alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps the liver detoxify alcohols so post christmas this could be useful!
OMEGA 3 AND VITAMIN D
Recent research demonstrates that the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D can play a role in reducing depression. Studies have found that people who consume fish frequently exhibit fewer depressive qualities than those who didn’t consume fish. Essential fatty acids EFA’s are a crucial part of a healthy diet, because our bodies cannot make them. When the word essential is used in a nutritional context it means that the body cannot synthesize (make) it itself and it must therefore be obtained from the diet.
If you eat oily fish twice a week it will provide a healthy dose of omega 3. However a massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet so there is often a need to take a good quality supplement such as *Eskimo Brain 3.6.9 which combines the unique stable fish oil, *Eskimo-3, high in DHA, with plant oils omega-6 and omega-9 along with Co-Q10 and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin so no prizes for guessing why we don’t have enough in Ireland. This sunshine vitamin is gaining a lot of attention recently (www.vitamindcouncil.org) and may be the most important “missing vitamin” for your brain and mood. It regulates the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin so as you can see nothing works in isolation in our bodies. It’s a proper team sport internally and for all our systems to function correctly they really need each other, which is why a large and varied diet is important. You can your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor but Irish people have been shown to be quite low especially during the winter months. Low levels have been connected with S.A.D and therefore supplementing can help ease symptoms and improve your mood.
B COMPLEX VITAMINS
B Complex vitamins help your body convert proteins from your diet into the neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, etc.) needed for mood and energy. B-complex vitamins also support heart health and improve your response to stress and help boost energy levels. While most B vitamins have some benefits for mental health, in terms of depression, the most important B vitamins include vitamin B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12. Looking to supplement, check out Terranova B Complex.
Did you know that it is just as easy to get dehydrated in the winter as it is in the summer? Staying hydrated is so important because we lose water all the time even through breathing. Just think of your breath in those frigid temperatures!! Some of the effects of dehydration are a slower metabolism, fatigue, muscle pain and dizziness. By the time you are actually thirsty your body is actually well on its way to being dehydrated. So here are my top tips:
- Start each day with a glass of warm lemon water or warm water to get your digestive system moving and rehydrate after a nights sleep
- Always carry water in your bag, have it on your desk and in the car.
- Set hydration reminders in your phone 3 times a day. This is just a gentle nudge!
- During the winter months hug a mug of soothing and calming herbal teas, hot cocoa, warm apple cider and my winter warmer in the recipe section.
- During exercise sweating releases potassium, sodium and calcium- which are known as electrolytes- these are not found in water so you need to replace these in winter months too; coconut water or ¼ of Himalayan salt in preworkout smoothies or juices is a good idea
- Eat your water in soups, stews and hydrating fruits and veggies like cucumber, celery and pears
If you have any tips please comment below. I would love to hear from you,
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