Here's my top tips for preventing depression or feeling "flat" over the winter months. Aside from exercise I have included some diet hints that really do help.
- Omega 3 fats - your diet should contain plenty of foods high in omega 3 fatty acids. Oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring) should be eaten several times per week or a supplement of fish oil containing EPA & DHA should be taken daily. Other good sources of alpha-linolenic fats which are converted into omega 3s in the body include flax seeds (linseeds) and walnuts.
- Good mood foods - apart from oily fish, foods that are high in an amino acid called tryptophan can help to keep your mood up. Tryptophan is converted to the "feel good" hormone serotonin in the body. Eat natural yoghurt, turkey, free-range or organic chicken, cottage cheese, avocados, bananas and wheatgerm to gain this amino acid.
- Nutrients - important nutrients for your brain are the B vitamins, particularly B6, B12 and folic Acid. However, B vitamins work best when they are taken in combination. A good multi-vitamin & mineral supplement is a good way to get all the B vitamins and other important nutrients. Natural sources are wholegrain foods, nutritional yeast, sheep yoghurt or cheese, goat yoghurt or cheese, and cow dairy products.
- Blood sugar balance - avoid added sugar, sugary foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread, cakes, soft drinks, biscuits, processed snacks) as they cause major fluctuations in your blood sugar levels and also your energy and mood. You'll find if you cut down on these types of foods and drinks that your mood will become more balanced, you will suffer from less mood swings and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome will decrease.
- Caffeine & stimulants- reduce caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, tea, cola, hot chocolate and guarana drinks as too many of these drinks cause a release of stress hormones which will make you feel stressed, out of control, agitated, moody, wired and tired.
- Turmeric - has been found in recent research to reduce depression so get into the turmeric latte craze and include turmeric in your Asian and Indian style dishes. You can use either powdered or fresh turmeric.
- Saffron - being the world's most expensive spice you would hope it has some added benefits apart from its unique flavour. Saffron has also been shown to help reduce depression and many practitioner only supplement producers are including this gorgeous spice into mood enhancer nutritional / herbal complexes. With great results.
- St. John's Wort - this herb may be useful to those suffering from mild depression and anxiety. It must be prescribed by a qualified practitioner as it is contraindicated with some pharmaceutical medications.