Written by Moynul Hazari
It is both normal and expected for moods to fluctuate with the seasons and for many people to feel a little more down in winter when there’s less sunlight and less opportunity to go outside and exercise. The good news is that when it comes to improving our overall mood, there are certain dietary strategies that we can put in place to help. Broadly speaking, these include:
- Balancing our blood glucose levels. The key to achieving this is not skipping meals, and not eating erratically, whilst also reducing the number of sugary snacks and foods consumed. Hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar is linked to depression and anxiety. To get around this concentrate on complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre for every meal and snack.
- Consuming nourishing fats. Fats are an essential contributor to our nervous system. In fact, our brains are about 60% fat, and the right kind of fat can help support brain function as well as the production of neurotransmitters. Here we want to be certain to avoid most processed vegetable oils, but rather focus on olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil, as the main oils that we use in our cooking.
- Eating a range of amino acids. Especially when on a plant-based diet a variety of different protein sources is important to get a variety of different amino acids. These are the precursors to your brains neurotransmitters that help balance mood.
- Getting enough B vitamins. This spectrum of vitamins helps soothe stress and support the nervous system. Many B vitamins are cofactors in formulating neurotransmitters. They can be found in a range of dark green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.
So, in an ideal world, your daily diet would be made up of a selection of foods from each of these groups:
- Greens – dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.
- Seeds – pick from chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
- Pulses - such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, cannellini, beans, butter, beans
- Vegetables – including peppers, squash, courgettes, onions, and sweet potato.
- Nuts - including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts.
These are the foods to focus on to weather the storm of seasonal depression and low mood.