Blue Monday has just gone and January is dragging on… It’s dreary, cloudy, grey and miserable out there, New Year resolutions are consigned to history, dry January seems like a daft idea and pay day is still a long way away…
There is a simple way to buck this low mood trend and embrace each day with energy and vitality: fuel your body and mind with foods that sustain and avoid the foods that drain.
Foods that sustain you are what I call good old-fashioned food, #goff – let’s see if it catches on! Foods that existed before the advent of industrial processing, which didn’t have all their nutrients processed out of them and were left for the body to process instead.
Take bread, for example. Traditional bread should be baked slowly and naturally whereas the industrial breads (made using the Chorleywood method), the light fluffy ones that never go stale, are cooked super-fast, with the help of extra nasty fats and chemicals making them difficult to digest, and thus a drain on our energy. So, if you’re going to eat bread, go for the sourdough variety which has been allowed to develop and ferment over many many hours, giving rise to a multitude of bacteria so beneficial for that gut of yours. And don't forget: happy gut = happy you 😊. Of course, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha are very much the zeitgeist, but they are actually traditional foods aka #goff that belong in any healthy diet.
Aside from these gut-friendly foods, we need a whole bunch of food companions to achieve a proper balanced meal that will nourish and sustain us, without those dreaded energy crashes and mood swings. Top tips for balancing blood sugar and therefore mood:
Eat protein and healthy fats with every meal
Eat a small amount of good quality low GL carb (which includes root veg & fruit by the way) so one slice of (sourdough) bread, a handful of pasta/rice, a very small jacket potato, a small carrot, a whole punnet of berries, 1 apple, 4 plums... and the wholegrains such as jumbo oats (not the microwaveable kind), brown basmati rice, brown pasta & quinoa, a source of precious B vitamins, known as the anti-stress/energy vitamins that are so important for a calm, happy mind.
Eat every 4-5 hours to keep your blood sugar balanced. If you eat a substantial brekkie, there is no need whatsoever for a mid-morning snack but if you won't be eating your evening meal until 7pm then a mid-afternoon apple with a few nuts is advisable.
Eat as many fresh vegetables that grow above the ground as you can: the green leafies, the salad veg containing all the colours of the rainbow that each endow you with their health-boosting benefits. A comforting, wholesome soup this time of year is perfect for keeping your spirits up e.g. Dale Pinnock's butternut squash and lentil soup which I'm making tonight.
Drink plenty of water to keep your mind clear, including herbal teas
Avoid too much caffeine (max 2 cups a day) to keep adrenaline at bay -what goes up must come down
Limit alcohol as it can be a depressant as well as a stimulant
Take a good Vitamin D supplement as this time of year in the UK you can’t possibly get enough from the sun. Vit D plays an important role in immune support and studies show that there is a relationship between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and depression.
Wrap up warm and go for a walk
As they say in Norway: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Walking or any exercise will boost your endorphins and make you feel much happier than just sitting around in a centrally heated house.
And remember, let’s set a trend: #goff!