October can be a gruelling month – the clocks are about to turn back, the days are getting darker, and the temperatures are dropping.
During these longer winter months, more and more people get affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can have a big impact on mood and energy levels.
You might think that these blues are something you simply have to put up with, but did you know that what you eat can play a major role in determining how you feel?
We spoke to Dr Rupy, Green Chef partner and NHS doctor, who shed some light on SAD and how people can help alleviate their symptoms through simple dietary switches.
So what is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of low mood disorder that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. and is sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’.
People produce less vitamin D in the winter months because of the lack of exposure to adequate natural light, and this also happens to be when many people suffer with low mood or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Dr Rupy said: ‘Some estimates suggest it can affect anywhere between 0.5 and 4% of the general population and is about three times more common in women than it is in men.
‘Symptoms include, low mood, lack of interest in normal everyday activities, despair, guilt, difficulty concentrating, lethargy.’
Eat foods high in Vitamin D
Dr Rupy said: ‘Some easily available ingredients that have a naturally high amount of vitamin D include oily fish like salmon or mackerel, egg and mushrooms.
‘Planning a few meals that incorporate some of these ingredients throughout the week can help keep your levels topped up.’
You could also think about taking a vitamin D supplement.
Avoid inflammatory foods
It’s bad news for those of us who like to indulge in the naughty foods.
Dr Rupy said: ‘Avoid inflammatory foods. Excess inflammation appears to have a connection with poor mental health, so removing triggers of inflammation in our diet, including refined carbohydrates, excess added sugar and poor quality fats from processed meat, dairy and oils taken to high temperatures (such as in deep fried foods) is advisable.’
Dr Rupy recommends Green Chef for people looking to make a stress-free switch to an unprocessed diet. The healthy recipe box service has plenty of options to choose from.
You can stick to a fully vegan diet or switch up your meals with a couple of lower carb options and a vegetarian dish. Whatever your preference, there’s tasty options available.
‘You want to replace inflammation-promoting food with polyphenol-rich foods, including colourful tomatoes, apple, butternut squash, kale and basically any fresh fruit and vegetable in season,’ said Dr Rupy.
‘These contain a suite of anti-inflammatory chemicals and diverse types of fibre which can lower inflammation in the body.
‘In addition, good quality fats and Omega 3 rich ingredients can have a direct anti-inflammatory effect. Nuts and seeds are great additions to add to your diet.’
Try a ‘Mediterranean’ diet
‘There is a bi-directional communication highway between our gut and our brains and what we eat can potentially affect how we feel’, Dr Rupy said.
He added: ‘Studies have demonstrated that a mostly Mediterranean diet could have a protective effect on our mood which is in some way related to our gut-brain connection.
‘With this in mind, good quality fats and fermented foods which will help nurture and populate your gut microbes is a good pragmatic decision for mental health and can have a knock-on effect on how we feel as a whole.
‘In general opting for a whole, unprocessed diet with a variety of colourful fresh ingredients, rich in fibre and quality fats could provide additional support for seasonal mood disorders.
‘As always, it’s important to check in with your general practitioner if you have concerns or worries about your mental health.’
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