• Jennifer McDiarmid

Beating the winter blues

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

Helping to boost your body, mood and energy during the winter months


January can be a really tough month for people – we are in the middle of the wet, dark winter. Spring and the sunshine can feel like a lifetime away. Christmas is over, we are back to work. Ugh. Around this time of year, many people can find themselves feeling quite low and even depressed, especially if you suffer from something called SAD (seasonal affective disorder).


So what can we do? Believe it or not, there are some really super nutrients we can make sure are in our diets that can really help to boost our mood and low feeling. Many of these are found in common foods as I have explained below. For those who are into their anatomy and biology, I have put a brief description of how they work and also shown the food groups they can be found in.

So here we go…


The B Vitamins

The B Complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. These vitamins are known as water soluble vitamins, which means that we excrete them in our urine and therefore need a good daily supply as they cannot be stored in the body.

The B vitamins can be easily depleted by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.

Food sources – These are found in a wide range of foods so eating a very varied and healthy diet should ensure you are getting the B Vitamins you need. Make sure you are eating a good supply of wholegrains, meats, and vegetables. If you decide to have a Vitamin B supplement, make sure you get one that is well balanced as the B vitamins work together so you need to have a balance of them.


Zinc

Zinc may be little but it is very powerful in the human body. Did you know it is a component of more than 200 enzymes in our bodies and is involved in more enzymatic reaction than any other mineral! Pretty impressive hey?

The highest amount of zinc in the body is found in our brains, particularly in a part of our brain called the hippocampus. Zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression as well as being linked to ADHD, difficulties with learning and memory and can also easily get depleted when you are stressed.

Food sources – Oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, pecans, split peas, brazil nuts, whole wheat, Rye, Oats, Peanuts, almonds and walnuts.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and the main source is from the sunshine – not easy during the winter months! Although it is mostly known for the absorption of calcium, there is now a lot of research into Vitamin D and depression. Although the exact way it works is still being investigated, research has shown that vitamin D acts on the part of the brain linked with emotional stability and depression.

Food sources of vitamin D are limited, although many foods such as cereal are fortified with it as well as egg yolks oily fish and cheese. The best way to get Vitamin D can be through sunshine or through a supplement during the winter months.


Selenium

Selenium is part of an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase (don’t worry you don’t need to remember that). It works with vitamin E in preventing damage to the membranes of our cells from things called free radicals. Just like with vitamin D, there is more research going in to the exact link between selenium and depression although there are increasing numbers of research studies that are showing a strong connection between low levels of selenium and depression.

Food sources – Beans, legumes, lean meats, nuts, seeds, seafood and wholegrains.


Tryptophan

This is an amino acid (a building block of protein). It plays many vital roles in the body. One of its most important ones is it is the starting point in the manufacturing of the neurotransmitters of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is the hormone that is involved in different processes in the body, but is best known as the ‘feel good’ hormone. Serotonin can then go on and become converted to melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us to go to sleep at night.

Food sources – turkey, milk, cottage cheese, chicken, eggs, red meats, soya, tofu, and nuts especially almonds.


Magnesium

This is an extremely important mineral. Next to potassium it is the most abundant mineral within our cells. Nearly 60% of magnesium is found in the bone, and the rest in the soft tissue and fluid. The main role of magnesium is its ability to activate many enzymes, and maintaining the electrical charge of cells especially those in muscle and nerve cells. It is also involved in many cellular functions including energy production, protein formation and cellular respiration. Symptoms of deficiency include mental confusion, irritability, and weakness.

Food sources – Whole grains, nuts especially almonds and cashew nuts, dried fruit, tofu and vegetables.


Essential fatty acids

The essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3 are essential for good brain function. They work on the synaptic cleft which is the junction between axons in the brain which transmit messengers. If these are not functioning properly, the messengers fail to get transmitted efficiently which can lead to, amongst other things, low mood and memory loss.

Food sources – Oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and their oils and butters.


If you are concerned about not getting enough of these essential nutrients or have a specific health condition then you can also get these through a good multi vitamin supplement. For more advice on these, please message me and I would be happy to answer any questions that you have.



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