Whether you're an annual sufferer or actually embrace the cosy the winter months bring, we can all relate to the dip in energy and mood the end of the year can bring, particularly as the Christmas festivities start to ramp up.
According to the NHS, SAD, more commonly known as the ‘winter blues’, affects an estimated 2 million people in the UK.
It is a seasonal depression that usually occurs during daylight savings, and whilst the exact cause is not fully known, it has been linked to reduced exposure to sunlight.
SAD has been linked to the following symptoms:
Consistent low mood
Tiredness and fatigue, even with a full nights of rest
Hunger, cravings for ‘comfort’ foods – those high in carbohydrates and sugars
Decreased sex drive
While there are many treatments to combat the condition, looking to the foods we eat and our overall gut health can be one of the most effective ways to manage SAD symptoms this winter.
The colder months call for more comfort food, as eating what you crave can reduce stress hormones. Although this can make you feel good, it can have a negative long-term affect if you are not consuming a healthy, balanced diet.
When experiencing SAD, it can be beneficial to consume foods high in the amino acid Tryptophan.
Studies have suggested that there is a direct link between this amino acid and the production of serotonin, the hormone related to happiness, memory, sexual desire and sleep.
Tryptophan-rich foods include salmon, chicken and turkey. Vegetarian and vegan sources include pumpkin seeds, tofu (and other soya-based foods) and spinach.
Your gut biome is also directly linked to the production of serotonin, and poor gut health is linked to depression and hormone imbalances.
It is important to ensure you include enough water, fruits, vegetables, and fibre in your diet to maintain gut health.
Here are five foods that can help combat tiredness and SAD
1. Dark chocolate
This is the one type of chocolate that we can somewhat justify as healthy in very small doses. Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which is the mineral that gives us energy and keeps us from feeling tired.
Also high in magnesium is "the marmite of fruit", bananas. "Love em’ or hate em’, they’re a great snack for when you’re on the go and their naturally high levels of magnesium mean you’ll be getting the right chemicals to offset the negative impact of SAD and will generally feel less tired. However, bananas are high in carbs, at 20 net carbs per 100 grams, so if you are a diabetic and watching your carb intake blackberries and raspberries may be a better option. More details here and here
3. Red or dark meats
Famously full of iron, eating red and dark meats is a great way to combat tiredness on the day-to-day. It is interesting to note that, in one study vegetarians were three times more likely to suffer from SAD, four more times in another. Therefore, if you don’t eat meat, many recommend taking a decent iron supplement to avoid SAD this winter, but it is always advisable talk to your Doctor/medical team first.
4. Fatty fish
We all know the theory that eating fish improves brain function. This is due, in part, to its high levels of a nutrient called creatine which has been proven to improve memory and cognitive function. However, it also has benefits for combatting tiredness. Creatine can literally improve energy production in the brain. When paired with the naturally high magnesium content in fish, these sea creatures are the perfect antidote to the symptoms of SAD.
Not only are avocados and nuts both low in sugar and high in fibre, making them filling and nutritious, they’re also high in magnesium. Both nuts and avocados are often considered ‘superfoods’ due to their many benefits, so it’s no surprise they also promote feeling energised and help offset some of the impact of SAD.
As well as consuming the above gut-friendly foods some also take Vitamin D supplements to deal with SAD, but it is always advisable talk to your Doctor/medical team first when considering supplements.
However, if your symptoms go beyond feeling tired or sad, or these feelings are not going away and you’re having serious physical or mental health issues, you should always consult your doctor.
Articles / studies within this blog are provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, including medication, you should contact your Doctor/local health care provider.
If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account, and if you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.
All the best Jan