A new year begins and January rushes by as we start to get busy with all the new tasks, goals, plans, and resolutions. By the time February rolls around, we begin to settle into our new routine, but so do feelings of seasonal depression. We blame the weather, but have you ever thought about how what you eat can change the way you feel, the way you think, improve your energy levels and help you cope with stress? Here’s how:
- Blood Sugar Control
How often are you eating through-out the day, and what do those meals/snacks look like? When our blood sugars are spiked up high due to a high Glycemic Index food or foods that have a quick release of sugar into our bloodstream, our sugars then will drop even lower than they should. The higher the blood sugars go, the lowers they drop. When we get ourselves into a blood sugar dip, we become irritable, get headaches, become cranky, can’t focus as well and crave even more sugar! Once we indulge in our next quick fix of sugar and repeat this cycle over and over, you go from cranky to monster! Some tips to avoid this blood sugar roller coaster are:
- Choose whole foods- whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, low GI fruits and veggies
- Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and veggies per day and choose leafy, dark green and root veggies to ensure vitamin, minerals and fibre intake is adequate
- Avoid fruit juice, sugar, processed foods and foods containing refined sugar
- Eat protein with each meal and snack
- Eat 5-6 balanced mini-meals per day including breakfast
- Nutrient Deficiencies and Neurotransmitter Production
Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that allow us to relay messages all over our body. Some of us may not have optimal levels of neurotransmitters and our diet could be the cause. When we are lacking or are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals our neurotransmitter production becomes sub-optimal. The two neurotransmitters I would like to discuss are serotonin, and dopamine.
Serotonin is responsible for our mood, memory, and sleep. When we find this neurotransmitter to be low we start to see signs of seasonal disorder/depression and possibly insomnia. How to boost this neurotransmitter through diet: vitamin D, chocolate, leafy greens, and bananas are a few examples. You can also increase this neurotransmitter through sleep, spending time in nature, smiling, and exercise!
Dopamine is responsible for giving your brain energy. It is a reward neurotransmitter that gives us motivation, pleasure and euphoria. If this neurotransmitter gets too low we can experience lack of motivation and have problems staying focused or holding our attention to a task. Ways to improve dopamine levels are: fish, eggs, spirulina, red beets, apples, kale, oregano oil, bananas, and berries.
- The Sunshine Vitamin
It’s no secret that living in Canada can get a little depressing in the winter months, but did you know a vitamin deficiency is actually the cause of these feelings, and the lack of sun is causing it! Vitamin D is a vitamin that becomes activated in our system through sunlight. As the gloomy winter days roll around, our stores of vitamin D begin to deplete, and we have no way of filling them back up. This is when supplementation comes into play. Food, vitamins and minerals are medicine! By increasing your vitamin D intake through supplementation in the winter months can improve your mood and way of thinking drastically. The good thing about this vitamin is that it is fat soluble so it will build up nicely in your system and keep you feeling wonderful all winter long!
- Cortisol Control
STRESSSSSSS! We all experience it, we all blame it, but who does anything about it? Stress is nothing more than a reaction. Once you begin to think about it as that, you can gain more control over it. By reaction I mean simply that. We experience stress, our body goes into fight or flight mode, our cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems become engaged, sugar is released into our blood and our cortisol levels go through the roof. This is ok to be occurring once and a while as this survival mechanism is meant for short, rare occurrences. For most of us, we live in a state of chronic stress, which means our body systems, our blood sugars and our hormones are constantly being put to work and at higher levels then they need to be. Since we’ve already discussed blood sugar control, I’d like to focus on how to control cortisol levels. Cortisol interferes with immunity, sex drive, sleep, weight control, and other aspects of health like our bones! Good news is there is a long list of vitamins, minerals and botanicals that can help reduce these levels of cortisol.
- Vitamin C
- B-Complex (especially vitamin B6)
- Calcium + Magnesium
- Green tea (Theanine content)
- Magnolia Bark
- Licorice Root
Are you starting to feel like 2017 is already got the best of you? Maybe it’s your nutrition! Making sure we control blood sugars, avoid nutrient deficiencies, and work to control our stress, an incredible improvement in mood can be accomplished!