Ask The Expert

Seven ways to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder

Statistically speaking, each of us are likely to know people who suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or, you might be one of the 2 million Brits plagued with symptoms each year. We asked Helen Bond, one of the country’s leading dieticians and Seven Seas ambassador, for her alternative food tips to help you or someone you care about avoid SAD this winter.

1. Boost your immunity

Some people with SAD also find that they are more prone to coughs and colds, so it’s vital to eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet to keep the immune system in tiptop condition. Key nutrients for keeping the immune system in tip top condition in January include vitamin A, B vitamins 6, B9 (Folate), B12 vitamin C, and minerals zinc, copper, selenium, iron

2. Watch the alcohol

There can be some social pleasures associated with moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol, but relying on it to improve your mood is counterproductive, as it’s a depressant, is highly calorific (1 gram contains 7 kcals) and is dehydrating. Hangover blues and weight gain are also well known to dampen your mood and make you feel, sluggish and bloated. Men and women are now advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week!

3. Breakfast like a king

A healthy breakfast replenishes energy levels after a long period without food and provides fuel and essential nutrients to help the body and brain function more effectively throughout the day.Research shows that breakfast not only helps to improve mood so you could be less stressed and feel happier.

4. Essential omega-3 fats

Omega-3 fats, especially DHA, are highly concentrated in the brain and are important for normal brain function and overall mental health- a deficiency in omega-3 fats is linked to low mood and depression. It is essential to get omega-3 fats from the diet, as they cannot be made in the body in sufficient amounts. Oil-rich fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and fresh tuna are all rich sources and hence why fish is often referred to as ‘brain food’. An analysis of 26 studies found that Europeans who ate the most fish were 17% less likely to become depressed than those who ate the least. Aim to eat at least one portion of oily fish a week. If you don’t eat fish, try taking a fish oil supplement like Seven Seas Cod liver oil, to boost your intakes of these essential fats and support good brain health

5. Throw in the chai seeds and flaxseeds

Rich in the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant form of omega-3, which the body converts into the longer chain omega-3 fats found in oil rich fish. While not a very efficient process, these seeds can be an important source of brain healthy fats for people who don’t regularly eat oil rich fish, vegans and vegetarians.

6. Go to work on an egg

A source of high quality protein, eggs also provide pantothenic acid, a B vitamin that contributes to normal mental performance. And there’s no need to restrict your intake. The major UK heart and healthy advisory groups including the British Heart Foundation, no longer give recommended upper limits.

7. Check your iron intake

Extreme tiredness, poor concentration, low mood can all be attributed to anaemia – an energy zapping condition caused by low blood iron levels. In the UK 48% of teenage girls and 27% of women aged 19-64 years have seriously low iron intakes and would benefit from eating more iron rich foods. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, oil rich fish, eggs, pulses, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as some fortified breakfast cereals. Dried apricots and figs are also good, although don’t eat too many as there are higher in natural sugar calories than fresh fruit. Add vitamin C to increase iron absorption – try a glass of orange juice.

About Helen Bond

Helen Bond – BSc.(Hons) SRD, MBDA is one of the leading Dietitians in the UK. Having graduated in 1996 with a 2:1 BSc. Honours degree in Dietetics from Queen Margaret University, Helen went on to become the resident in-house dietitian at Hill and Knowlton Public Relations Consultancy in London for 3 years, providing nutritional expertise for a number of food clients. In 2000, she started her own business and took on the position of Consultant Dietitian. She currently provides assistance to several top name food companies, Public Relations (PR) consultancies and marketing agencies, is the nutrition voice for BBC Radio Derby, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association and is regularly quoted in the national, consumer and health professional press.

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