Christmas is now all but a distant memory as we’re all back at work, school and college. The anti-climax following Christmas can leave many people feeling deflated.
“Winter Blues” is a phenomenon characterised by a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness associated with experiencing the cold and darkness of winter and affects approximately 20% of the Irish and UK populations, not surprising given our not so desirable winter weather conditions.
A balanced diet providing at the essential nutrients is important throughout the year. However, in the winter it’s worth paying special attention to a few specific nutrients.
Better known as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” vitamin D is largely synthesised in our skin in the presence of sunshine. Ireland has, suboptimal levels of sunshine (that’s an understatement!) and this is turn means we Irish freckle heads have less vitamin D than our European counterparts living closer to the equator. Research suggests that those with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to experience depressive symptoms and these symptoms have been seen to improve when vitamin D supplements are taken.
It is recommended that we in Ireland aim for an intake of 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D per day. This can easily be obtained from food – see my lovely table below accompanied by my lovely baked salmon salad from Drop Chef
If you decide to take a vitamin D supplement, choose a supplement that contains vitamin D3 as this is easier for the body to absorb than vitamin D2.
Omega-3 Fish Oils
The “good fats” from oily fish, nuts, seeds and non-tropical vegetable oils* are important for heart health, but did you know they could contribute to our mood? Studies have shown that following a Mediterranean style diet reduces the risk of depression. The Mediterranean style diet is based on fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil, while limiting convenience foods, salt and red meat.
This January sprinkle your morning porridge with some nuts and seeds and dress your salads with a drizzle of olive oil to help boost your Omega-3 levels without having to stomach that horrid cod liver oil that was forced upon us as children.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Yes, Legally Blonde is entertaining and informative. Endorphins are chemicals released during exercise that leave you feeling energised and positive following a workout. This January make it your mission to get out for a brisk walk or take a fun exercise class. You’ll burn off those Christmas calories instead of comfort eating through these dark evenings.
Amy Meegan, BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition, UCD
* Non-tropical vegetable oils include rapeseed, sunflower, peanut, olive, corn, safflower and soybean oils.
If concerned about your mental health, please speak to a healthcare professional.
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