Nutrition is key to a healthy lifestyle throughout the year, but it's especially important during winter. Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is commonly referred to as ‘winter depression’ and directly relates to the time period after the clocks go back, and throughout the winter months.
Short days and long periods of darkness affect many people, causing symptoms such as persistent low mood, loss of interest in normal activity, irritability, low self-esteem and increased stress.
Sufferers might also find they have an increased appetite, specifically cravings for carbohydrates, which often result in excess calorie consumption and creeping weight gain.
The negative feelings experienced when suffering from SAD can result in loss of interest in exercising, healthy eating and overall wellbeing. A study led by researchers from the University of Georgia associates low vitamin D levels with greater risk of seasonal affective disorder.
Vitamin D contributes to the body’s production of the "happy hormone" serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood and low levels of sunlight during winter months, are thought to contribute to the rates of SAD.
There are some things we can all do to fight SAD, maintain a brighter outlook and a healthy lifestyle throughout winter, including increasing our intake of Vitamin D. For an adult, a daily intake of 600 IU of is recommended and there are some delicious foods containing high levels of Vitamin D, which are ideal for fighting the symptoms of SAD.
A portion of salmon, which is also rich in omega-3, can deliver more than half your daily requirment of Vitamin D, and it's a very versatile ingredient to include on your menus. Serve on a bed of vegetables, or flaked through a stir fry or salad.
A common household ingredient, cows’ milk is fortified with Vitamin D, providing 100 IU per cup.
Don’t worry if you don’t consume dairy, plant-based options such as oat, soy and coconut milk also function as good sources of Vitamin D.
Love a boiled egg or scrambled egg on toast for breakfast? Fantastic!
One egg contains 40 IU Vitamin D. This is a perfect way to start your day and ensure your mood is lifted all day.
Additionally, eggs are a good source of lecithin which acts as a mood stabilizer, further helping combat the signs of SAD.
Naturally containing small levels of Vitamin D, mushrooms are a great addition to any meal. Slice them up and throw them into Bolognese sauce, stir fry’s or pasta dishes.
5. Orange Juice
Do you start your day with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice? Perfect, you are on your way to a great day. One cup of orange juice can pack almost a third of your daily Vitamin D requirements, not to forget the high levels of Vitamin C, which can help ward off the winter colds and flus.
It's recognised that winter is always that time of the year when we feel a little more down and not so enthusiastic towards healthy lifestyle goals, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Boosting your levels of Vitamin D can really help you fight "winter depression" and you can do this by adding even just one extra portion every day of any of the foods mentioned above.
Of course, if you find yourself really struggling this winter, other forms of support and care, may benefit you - call a friend for a chat, go for a walk, especially on sunny days, listen to or watch a comedy show. You'll feel much more positive about reaching your wellness and weight loss goals when your mood improves.