Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Got the Winter Blues? Diet and Exercise Can Help

This time of year, as the days are shorter and we spend less time outdoors, many people find themselves in the thick of the winter blues. The holidays are just about over and you may have gained a few pounds with all the celebrations, but eating right and keeping active can help banish those blues and get you back in shape for the new year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common affliction in times and places where sunlight is scarce. Many people can relate to the symptoms, including a lack of energy, an increased need for sleep, and a craving for foods that help pack on the pounds -- especially this time of year. The end result of extra calories in and less activity is that dreaded weight gain. Not to worry, a healthy dose of your favourite sunlight vitamin, a boost in fruit and vegetable consumption and moving about a little more can get you over the hump until spring arrives, and is a good practice to maintain year round.

Vitamin D is normally produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight for about 15 minutes a day, but there is not enough sunlight for 6 months of the year for us to do that up here in Canada. Taking at least 1000 IU per day of vitamin D is recommended for all adults, but those who are feeling the effects of SAD may actually need more - just not more than 4000 IU per day. In addition, eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies will help ensure that you're meeting your daily recommendation of vitamins and minerals that can help raise your spirits until the sun sticks around for a little bit longer. Omega-3 fatty acids are also implicated in depression, and can help boost your mood, so be sure to take at least 1000mg per day. In addition to a healthy diet, physical activity releases "feel good" hormones called endorphins which can reduce the effects of SAD.

Feeling down this time of year is pretty much to be expected, but you don't have to suffer! Get back on track with healthy eating, move around a little more and you'll be feeling like yourself again in no time.