Can you eat your way to a better state of mind? Make certain changes to your diet to help with SAD!
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter months. Symptoms of SAD can include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, feeling lethargic and weight gain. For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.
How can eating the right foods boost mental health?
It’s undeniable that in recent years, research has indicated a link between diet and mental health. In fact, this body of evidence is growing at a rapid rate, and yet, diet still often remains a last resort when it comes to addressing ways to help improve or prevent the onset of mental health issues.
Our heart, liver and stomach are organs, and so too is our brain. It is acutely sensitive to what we eat. To remain healthy, it needs different amounts of nutrients ranging from essential fatty acids, amino acids to vitamins, minerals and water.
If you are someone who has ever smoked, drank alcohol, tea or coffee, or eaten chocolate, you will know only too well that they can alter the state of your mood, the effect, depending on the substance, is thankfully often temporary! But what is less commonly known is that some foods can actually have a longer lasting influence on moon and mental wellbeing.
Research has shown that food plays an important role in the development, management and prevention of mental health problems, but which foods in particular are they referring to?
- Dramatically decrease your consumption of sugar
At the top of the list is a decrease in sugar consumption, and in particular: fructose, grains and processed foods. Not only are processed foods high in sugar and grains, they are also packed full of a variety of additives, which can affect your brain function and mental state, especially artificial sweeteners. Research has shown that a diet rich in processed foods is also linked to an increased risk of depression.
- Increase your intake of fish
Several studies have indicated that low levels of fish consumption by country were linked to higher levels of depression among its citizens and vice versa. Fish is rich in omega-3 fats, which are crucial for optimal brain function and mental health.
- Up your vitamin B intake
Low levels of the B vitamins including B1, B2, B12 and folate have been linked to an increased risk of depression. Ensure your diet is rich in seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs to increase your daily B vitamin intake.
- Soak up the sun to get more vitamin D
The best way to up your vitamin D levels is through regular sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for your mood. There’s a reason why people are happier when it’s sunny! One study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression than those with normal levels.
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through sunshine but in this country, it isn’t always easy. When it comes to foods rich in vitamin D, opt for salmon, tuna, sole, fortified cereals, eggs, ricotta, milk, pork and mushrooms. Remember SAD is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that they perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure.
Our brain is part of our bodies, of course. So anything that makes our bodies healthier: fresh air, sunshine, clean water, exercise, de-stressing, vitamins and minerals, improved circulation, etc. will make our brains healthier.
It’s not as simple as just supplementing these. Nutrients work together in context. You can’t ‘biohack’ your way to happiness with a few pills or ‘superfoods’. It is essential to have a healthy, balanced diet.