Is anyone else suffering from the beginning of the winter blues? Although we currently have no snow (for which I am very grateful) the colder and shorter days certainly take their toll not only on my energy levels, but also my motivation to eat fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. If any of you out there are like me, when the colder weather hits you start craving hearty comfort food like cheesy casseroles, french bread, and decadent baked goods like pie and pastries.
Consuming too many of the above foods also takes a toll on my energy levels, and recently, when I reflected back on why I had been feeling fairly 'blah' lately, I turned to my diet and I definitely noticed I was eating too many of the 'in moderation' foods in anything BUT moderation. In my position as a Dietary Manager I get to taste test multiple baked goods and hearty meals to ensure the residents in our long term care home are getting the best of the best. Unfortunately, taste testing cakes and cookies doesn't leave much appetite for things like vegetables and whole grains. It also leaves an overall unwell feeling that I decided to address this weekend by hitting the grocery store to stock up on some healthy fall favorites like vegetables for roasting, stock to make some homemade soups, and cans of beans, lentils, and diced tomatoes for some nutritious chili and wrap recipes.
Many people dread the grocery store, however I have learned to embrace my need to spend time in the grocery aisles examining labels and discovering new products to ensure I have everything my family needs for a nutritious and balanced lifestyle.
Not only will eating a well balanced diet full of colorful fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables keep you feeling energized, it may also help you ward off the all to common SAD - ness that may people encounter during the winter months. Even if you've never heard of SAD or 'Seasonal Affective Disorder,' you may have experienced it. SAD is a condition comprised of a collection of depressive symptoms that are usually brought on during the autumn and winter months, but are less noticeable or non-existent during the spring and summer months.1 Although nutrition therapy is not currently recommended as a line of treatment for SAD, it can play a role in the psychological or emotional challenges often faced by people who have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that many people suffering from depressive symptoms find it difficult to engage in activities involved in a nutritious lifestyle such as finding the energy to go grocery shopping, to cook a meal, or to avoid some of the non-nutritious foods that give us instant gratification such high fat and high sugar sweets. Eating may also be used as a coping strategy to deal with emotional issues that may be triggered by SAD during the darker and colder winter months.2
Science continues to support this link between nutrition and mood and there is currently a lot of work being done by researchers to understand just how influential our dietary choices are in how we feel not only physically, but emotionally. In fact, there was a study recently published in BMC Medicine that suggests that moderate adherence to a Mediterranean diet, that is, a diet rich in nuts, fish, fruits, legumes, and vegetables, and low in sources of saturated and trans fats (meat products and sweets) may lower ones risk of depression by as much as 25 - 30%.1 Pretty interesting stuff.
Although this particular study didn't look at different kinds of depression, I think it's reasonable to assume that if a healthful diet has the potential to lower the risk of depression in individuals, it may also help lower the risk of SAD. Research project anyone? Unfortunately my plate is kinda full at the moment, so I think I'll have to design a research study on this topic at another time.
One's things for sure, even if you don't suffer from any kind of clinical depression, eating a nutritionally robust and varied diet certainly won't make you feel worse. So there you have it, yet another reason to eat your greens ... and oranges, and yellows, and blues.
If you're not already, get stocked up on the inexpensive fall veggies that are starting to hit the shelves and have a happy healthy week!
Please leave your comments down below - I love hearing from you :)
1. Kurlansik, S., & Ibay, A. (2012). Seasonal affective disorder. American Family Physician, 86(11), 1037-1041. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1201/p1037.html
2. Health Condition/Disease. (2015). Healthy Weight/Obesity Background, Psychological or emotional. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.pennutrition.com.uml.idm.oclc.org/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=803&trid=19748&trcatid=38
3. S?nchez-Villegas, A., Henr?quez-S?nchez, P., Ruiz-Canela, M., Lahortiga, F., Molero, P., Toledo, E. A., & Mart?nez-Gonz?lez, M. A. (2015). A longitudinal analysis of diet quality scores and the risk of incident depression in the SUN Project. BMC Medicine, 13, 197. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.uml.idm.oclc.org/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA428951759&v=2.1&u=univmanitoba&it=r&p=HRCA&asid=7184edbfd0ed728ff3d4e4e004e6f497