Beating the January blues by eating happy foods

If Christmas and New Year have left you feeling a little fat and frazzled, chances are you’re not alone.


When the carousel of parties, family get-togethers and festive drinks finally grinds to a halt it can be a mite depressing. Throw in a dose of flu or winter vomiting bug and you’re probably wondering why you bothered welcoming in the New Year at all.

Of course, January needn’t be as bad as all that. An empty wallet might well be unavoidable but there’s plenty you can do to make sure you start the New Year in the right frame of mind and in the best of health.

Eat happy foods. Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of low mood and aid sleep.

Bananas contain tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin. They’re also packed with potassium and vitamin B6, which helps to regulate blood sugar (great if your waistband is a little tighter than usual) and stabilise mood.

Complex carbohydrates (brown rice, oats and pulses) are better than high protein meals as they give you sustained energy and are more likely to promote good vibes. This is because they can increase the movement of tryptophan across the blood brain barrier increasing levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin.

The B complex vitamins can also help, especially if you’re feeling stressed. Vitamin B5 is vital for the body’s conversion of food into energy and can aid mood elevation. It helps to support the adrenal glands, which are the primary organs in the body responsible for dealing with the effects of stress. Vitamin B6 is necessary for serotonin synthesis.

Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’ (so called because it is produced in the body when exposed to UV light) has been found to enhance mood and the overall sense of wellbeing.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), low mood triggered by a lack of sunlight and shorter daylight hours, is more common in people with low levels of vitamin D. So if a winter break to the Bahamas is out of the question, then a vitamin D supplement may have to come a close second.

Saffron extract can also help for seasonal moods. If your energy levels are flagging, look no further than Rhodiola rosea. From Russia, this brilliant little herb can help with fatigue, low energy and poor sleep.

Organic vervain is a great nerve tonic, while elderberry can help to support an ailing immune system.

If you are feeling a little under the weather, good immune-strengthening foods include garlic, onions, beetroot, peppers, chillies, sweet potato, carrots, apples, nuts, seeds, honey and blueberries . . . the list goes on but, generally, lots of raw, colourful ingredients.

Where possible, opt for organic food over non-organic. Research shows that it is more nutritious with higher nutrient levels and fewer potential toxins like synthetic pesticides and antibiotics.

Specific vitamins and minerals can also lend support, especially vitamin C and zinc. Ester-C, a buffered ‘body ready’ form of vitamin C is better absorbed by the body and a personal favourite.

As far as herbal remedies are concerned, olive leaf extract can be very useful. With powerful antimicrobial activity, it can help against a whole range of bugs (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites), including those responsible for the common cold. And a good synbiotic formula - a nutritional supplement that combines probiotics (good gut bacteria) and prebiotics (food for good bacteria) - can also help to strengthen your immune system.

Finally, if you need a helping hand with those resolutions there’s N-Acetylcysteine or NAC for short. “Willpower in a capsule”, NAC is thought to work by stimulating the brain chemicals that mediate reward-seeking behaviour and cravings, making it a useful ally against various forms of addiction including nicotine, alcoholism, sugar cravings and gambling.

For further advice contact Carol Faulkner at Health Quest, 8 Wood Street, The Grosvenor Centre, Northampton.

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