The best food to beat the winter blues!
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As winter closes in, many of us turn to food for comfort, but whilst a packet of fudge might make you feel good in the short term, much of what we put into our bodies during the winter months can play havoc with our hormones and energy levels. Some foods, however, can actually help improve our mood. Nutritionist Fiona McDonald Joyce shares her tips.
Vitamin D is produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight and a deficiency of it over the winter months is thought to be one of the causes of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Found in especially high levels in fish, vitamin D might help relieve mood disorders by increasing the amount of serotonin - one of the neurotransmitters responsible for the 'feel good factor' - in the brain.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in eggs are natural mood lifters and may even help alleviate depression. Eggs are also full of phospholipids, which allow nutrients to pass into the brain more effectively, thus helping to keep your memory and brain function sharp. Oily fish are another great source of omega 3.
Keeping your body and brain hydrated is probably one of the most important things that you can do for your health. Two thirds of the body is made up of water, so keeping a regular intake allows all bodily functions to occur correctly.
You probably don't need us to tell you chocolate can make you feel better; it's especially good for you if you stick to good quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and steer clear of sugar-rich, inferior products. New Choxi+ is processed in a much gentler way in order to preserve two to three times more of the natural antioxidants in cocoa. According to its makers, two squares of Choxi+ provides enough antioxidants for a whole day but fewer calories than a typical apple.
Most people link oranges to vitamin C, but they are also high in folate. Folate is thought to be important to enhancing moods and, like vitamin B12, is believed to play a role in the creation of serotonin - the brain's happy chemical!
Most nuts contain selenium, which is thought to help prevent depression and be vital for good mental health.
Wholegrains, such as those found in wholegrain bread, include wheat, barley, oats, and rice. Long known to be important for overall digestive and heart health, as well as maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, they are also high in vitamin B12, which is thought to be linked to helping prevent depression.
Natural live yoghurt contains active and living bacterial cultures, which help to boost the immune system. By helping to maintain the balance of bacteria in your bowel, and prevent the overgrowth of candida yeast, eating natural yoghurt will also help your mind, as too much of this yeast has been linked to emotional symptoms and poor mental state.
Green vegetables like spinach and peas are packed full of iron, which plays a vital role in preventing anaemia. More common than you might think, anaemia sufferers are likely to have difficulty concentrating and feel tired during the day.
Xylitol is a natural sugar alternative found in many plants and fruits. Whilst it looks and tastes just like sugar, it has a number of functional benefits. One of these being that, unlike sugar, it releases the energy it contains very slowly (it has a GI value of just 7, around ten times lower than sugar). When we eat normal sugar, the energy is released very quickly making us feel great for a short while, but soon afterwards we feel tired and lethargic; causing mood swings and cravings. Xylitol, on the other hand, releases its energy much slower and helps keep mood more stable, it also means your body is substantially less likely to convert the energy to fat. Xylitol is available in the UK under the brand name Perfect Sweet.