Beating Winter Blues with Nutrition

(As featured on January 30 in The Telegram)

It's thought that each year 2-3% of Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. About
another 15% of us have milder winter blues. Even though winter has shorter days of the year, with the
cold and darkness, for some these days can certainly seem to be longer. For anyone out there who does
feel like that, with the end of January just about here, the good news is we're about halfway through the
winter season. So we can't change the weather, but what can we do during winter months? Well, eating
the right foods can help to play a role in people feeling their best and beating wintertime blues. Getting
enough adequate nutrients, especially vitamin D and omega-3 fats are key.

Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is one that people tend to lack in. This time of year especially. We
usually obtain vitamin D from two sources. The sun, or food we eat. In Newfoundland and Labrador
the sun's rays are only powerful enough to help us produce this vitamin for a few short months during
the year, usually the summer. In fact, this is true for essentially any one living north of about New
York. People who have darker skin, are older, overweight or obese tend to have lower levels too. If
you're 50 years of age or older you should be having a vitamin D supplement daily of 400IU in addition
to dietary intake. So where can you find vitamin D from food? Sources include things like milk and
fortified beverages, such as soy, oily fish, egg yolks, and margarine. We know that vitamin D is really
important for bone and dental health, but lately it's been linked to potentially aiding in prevention for
many disease states as well.

Ever hear someone say fish is good for the brain? Well if they're referring to fish high in omega-3
(and not deep fried with chips) that's certainly true. Intakes of omega-3, the good fats are thought to be
protective as well. Like vitamin D many people don't get enough of these in their regular diet. Fatty
fish, like salmon, mackeral, herring, char, trout or sardines or plant sources like flaxseeds, walnuts,
pecans, almonds or soybeans are good sources. Try and have these foods at least twice a week.

Serotonin, a feel good chemical our bodies produce, is also worth noting. As it gets darker earlier, we
get less exposure to the sun, which can lead to a drop in this healthful and helpful substance. The drop
people experience sometimes causes depression and food cravings. You can boost serotonin levels
with healthy carbohydrates. Things such as whole grain bread, rice and pasta, sweet potatoes, yams,
pumpkins, and squash. Choose these over foods like white grains, french fries, sugary cereals, sweets
and treats. It can be tempting to give in to those sugary foods, and yes you may feel some 'goodness'
at first, but it will surely peak and quickly drop. The good feeling you'll get from eating the wholesome
healthy carbs first mentioned will be much longer lasting. Serotonin also increases with exercise.
Being physically physically active and eating well not only helps our bodies to be healthy, but keeps
our minds feeling good too.

Increasing your intake of these foods can certainly equip you for feeling your best during the cold
winter days. However, if you think you're experiencing more than just wintertime blues and say winter
depression, aka Seasonal Defective Disorder, be sure to follow up with a healthcare professional.