Sufferers of SAD often have reduced levels of serotonin during the winter months. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating appetite – when we’re low in serotonin, we often feel more hungry. As many carbohydrate foods are rich in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, this may explain why we want to reach for foods like bread, pasta and pastries. These foods can cause imbalances in blood-sugar levels, which can trigger further increases in appetite and cravings.
The good news is that you can make changes to your eating habits today that will have profound and long-lasting effects on your winter mood.
Look at the list below and tick any symptoms you’ve experienced over the winter months:
1. increased sleep
2. feeling unrefreshed after sleep
3. craving starchy and sweet foods
5. sore or weak muscles
6. weight gain
8. inability to concentrate
9. mental fog
10. feelings of hopelessness
12. lethargy, lack of motivation
If you ticked five or more symptoms, you may suffer from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is essentially caused by lack of sunlight, so it’s important to get as much natural daylight as possible. Your body makes most of its own vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunshine. Even on a dull day, you’ll still benefit from spending time outside.
7 ways to beat food cravings
1. Eat a protein breakfast. Including protein at breakfast helps reduce cravings and control appetite. Try our recipe for poached eggs and asparagus (below) or a protein shake, nuts and seeds, or fish.
2. Balance blood sugar. Swings in blood sugar are one of the major causes of cravings so keep blood sugar stable. Eliminate sugars, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, artificial sweeteners and refined carbohydrates. Combine good protein foods with healthy fats and slow-releasing carbohydrates.
3. Include snacks during the day. Eat a couple of healthy protein-rich snacks during the day and don’t allow yourself to become too hungry.
4. Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. This can actually increase insulin levels and may increase cravings as well as disturb blood sugar and sleep patterns.
5. Get sufficient vitamin D – not only is this important for boosting mood, low levels of vitamin D may also impair your appetite control.
6. Take natural supplements for cravings. Consider a supplement to help balance blood sugar that includes chromium. L-glutamine powder can also be very effective.
7. Include soluble fibre – this helps you feel fuller for longer and aids blood-sugar control. Eat foods such as beans, pulses, oats, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit such as apples and pears.
Poached eggs with asparagus
Start the day with a runny poached egg on a bed of tender asparagus. Packed with B vitamins, iron and copper – all help in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain – plus it’s quick, easy and delicious!
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 8 minutes
20 asparagus spears, trimmed
knob of unsalted butter
Parmesan cheese (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
1. Steam the asparagus spears for 3-4 minutes until tender.
2. Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
3. Divide the asparagus between plates, dot with butter and lay two poached eggs on top of each asparagus bundle. Scatter over a little Parmesan, if using, and season well with black pepper.
Find up-to-date nutritional science and comprehensive, accessible information on which foods to eat for optimum health and vitality in Lift Your Mood With Power Food.
“Recipes to lift your spirits” The Sun
Lift Your Mood With Power Food by Christine Bailey.
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