Diet and mood – preventing SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many people do not enjoy the change to shorter days and colder weather. During this time we can experience a lower mood, decreased motivation and reduced energy levels. However, we adapt to the changes and carry on. On the other hand, some people do not adapt and these seasonal symptoms can get increasingly worse as we progress further in to winter. The people that feel this way suffer from SAD. This stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder – a type of depression that is brought on by winter and disappears in spring.
What are the signs of SAD?
People who suffer from depression frequently experience insomnia and a loss of appetite. Alternatively, those who suffer from SAD generally experience a desire to sleep excessively (hypersomnia) and cravings for “stodgy” foods, e.g. high carbohydrate foods like hot chips, pastas, fried foods and pies. Other symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of concentration
- Anxiety/ irritability
Although diet cannot cure SAD, it can help. Particularly if you are just feeling blue about winter opposed to having the full spectrum disorder. So before locking yourself up and hiding away for the winter, try these diet tips! They will help to boost mood at any time of the year.
Eat to beat fatigue
Not following a proper diet and routine can lead to tiredness, poor motivation and irritability. There are certain steps you can take to ensure you are fuelling your body in the best way possible. This is like the groundwork of achieving a good mood!
- Routine eating: When you go long periods without eating or you skip meals, your blood sugar levels drop. This can then decrease your appetite, prolonging eating even further. This pattern often results in fatigue, an irritable mood and a lack of concentration. So as the first step, form a routine and try stick to it. Most importantly, do not skip meals.
- Keep your water intake up: It is easy to become dehydrated in winter because often we feel like drinking less water due to the cold. Additionally; the heating in offices, shops and at home can really dehydrate you. Not having enough water can also make you more tired and decrease your concentration.
- Quality carbohydrates: This means low GI, where possible! This again will help to provide you with a lasting energy source. Not only this, but grain foods appear to raise your serotonin levels! How? Grain products induce the release of insulin in the body. The insulin then assists in moving tryptophan in to the brain. The brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin.
|Serotonin is a chemical found in the brain that helps to regulate our mood, sleep and appetite.|
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is used to make serotonin. Your body cannot produce tryptophan so you need to get it from your diet.
Mood boosting nutrients
Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D
Both of these nutrients are great for enhancing your mood! Omega 3 can be found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. In a simpler form, it can be found in flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil and walnuts.
The fishes mentioned above are also a good source of vitamin D. Because vitamin D is difficult to get from food sources, 2-3 serves of fish should be eaten each week. Other good sources of vitamin D include eggs and fortified products.
Some B group vitamins have also been shown to have a close link with mood. Of the B vitamins, low levels of folate and vitamin B12 have been linked with a risk of depression. Vitamin B6 can also help lift your mood as it converts tryptophan in to serotonin.
- B12: Get this from your meat, fish, dairy and poultry. If you are vegetarian or vegan, a B12 supplement may be required.
- Folate: Found in green leafy vegetables, fortified breads and cereals, nuts, legumes
- B6: Found in pork, fish, eggs, wholegrains, nuts, avocado, soy and banana.
To create mood lifting meals, combine tryptophan rich foods with foods rich in B vitamins, vitamin D, omega 3 and that are low GI. Good sources of tryptophan:
- Turkey, chicken
- Fish. Any fish will be a good source of
tryptophan but those oily fish like salmon
also provide a vitamin D and omega 3 hit!
- Milk, cheese
- Eggs – combined with wholegrain toast to
assist that tryptophan enter the brain
- Peanuts/ peanut butter
- Pumpkin/ sesame seeds
- Soy, tofu
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about foods to boost your mood or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.