Seasonal Affective Disorder – “Holiday Depression”?
Part 2 - Nutrition and Holiday Treats
In the northern hemisphere, the days get shorter and the darkness seems to win towards the holiday season around November-December.
In this 6-part series I will talk about possible causes of SAD - and what we can do to help!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
For many people that darkness extends to their emotions, and they feel gloomy, down and generally miserable. They may be experiencing depression, sleep problems, weight gain, anxiety, joint pain, irritability, stress, or headaches. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), winter depression, or “Holiday Depression”.
What are the most important causes contributing to SAD?
- Lack of sunlight
- Holiday Treats
- Lack of Nutrients
- Increased Stress from the holiday season
- Lack of Exercise
- Regrets and Worries
What Can we Do about it?
- Light Therapy
- Reduce Sugary and Junk Food (as much as possible)
- Take supplements
- Relax – Your Holidays do not need to be perfect
- Move more
- Be kind to yourself – Exterminate the ANT’s from your Brain…
Each week I will talk about one of these issues.
So today here is Cause - and Intervention # 2 addressed:
Cause # 2: Holiday Treats
Holiday Treats are typically high in carbs and simple sugars, like cake, cookies and Holiday candy…
Many people notice that after a high-sugar meal (or a meal high in simple carbs), they get tired and sluggish.
Why is that?
After a high-sugar meal our blood sugar rises rapidly, leading to a rapid insulin release to bring it down. Often the insulin secretion is more than needed, and that can lead to an episode of low sugar (Hypoglycemia), where you feel tired, weak, and maybe even jittery and sweaty when your body reacts to it with a release of the sugar-rising adrenalin or glucagon or both. You feel that as a leaden fatigue, especially often experienced as “afternoon slump” after a quick sugar-or starch-laden lunch.
Intervention # 2: Reduce Sugary and Junk Food (as much as possible)
Now that sounds easier said than done. Really, should I not eat any candy and cookies and cake anymore? Well, in an ideal world, yes. But what is realistic?
So from a nutrition point of view we need to eat foods for high nutritional value - foods that give the best 'miles per gallon'. These foods are - unprocessed, organic, nutrient-rich whole foods such as apples, pears and berries and all vegetables, and also whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole grain bread), beans and lentils. If half your diet consists of these whole foods, you are on the right track for natural energy. Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, biscuits, cakes and white rice as much as possible.
To improve mood we need to look at foods that increase levels of serotonin, the brain's 'happy' neurotransmitter. A protein called tryptophan is converted in the body to serotonin, so we need to increase our intake of foods rich in tryptophan. This can be found in foods such as fish, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, avocadoes and bananas. Eating foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids (found in small oily cold-water fish such as herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, and also in seeds) can help depression through improving the cell membrane and mitochondrial functions in brain and body.
If the thought of eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole foods seems difficult in the winter, think of making lots of warming soups, casseroles, hot berry desserts. Also, use what's in season - all those root vegetables, carrots, cabbage, celeriac root, turnips, parsnips leeks and onions. Try combining a selection with some vegetable stock or bone broth (HERE is My favorite and easy recipe) and brown lentils to make a wholesome soup or casserole (add fresh/dried herbs for extra flavouring); and follow it with a delicious apple and berry crumble. Comfort food can be nutritious and can help you get out of the winter blues!
Click on an image below to take you to the recipe!
Low-sugar treats and a great vegetable soup!
In Part 3 of the SAD series we are talking about how lack of nutrients can make you feel sluggish, sad and tired - and what you can do about it (besides food alone)!