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Beat the Blues

Beating the seasonal blues by Gary Baverstock, Nutritional Therapist.

At this time of year we are less exposed to sunlight during the shorter winter days that may cause symptoms of SAD or low moods. Read on to see which foods can help to improve moods.
Carbohydrates - the blood sugar connection

Carbohydrates = glucose, the energy source for the brain that needs to be maintained within strict limits.

Dramatically fluctuating blood sugar levels, caused by refined carbohydrates, sugars and stimulants are known to affect mood, energy and concentration levels. Meals and snacks should above all contain complex carbohydrates – for slow release sugars for energy and fibre that slows the rate of glucose absorption and provides essential nutrients.

Choose: WHOLEGRAINS, BROWN RICE, QUINOA, OATS, PULSES AND STARCHY VEGETABLES

Fats – beneficial

60% of the brain is made from fat, most of which is the soft omega 3 fats EPA and DHA that give the brain a supple structure and help brain cells transmit and receive information easily.

DHA helps promote nervous system development and optimal memory function. EPA is the most potent natural anti-depressant.

EPA and DHA comes from oily fish/vegan marine algae only provide DHA.

Veggie sources of omega 3 are called ALA from walnuts, flax and chia seeds that has to be converted to DHA (only 1%) and EPA (only 15%).

Supplementing with a good quality omega 3 (EPA and DHA) oil is a very good idea.

Protein

Made from amino acids (AAs) that are used to form neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) and support structures in brain cells. The three key AAs are:

  • Tryptophan = 5-HTP = Serotonin – the brains ‘happy’ chemical.
  • Tyrosine = dopamine that keep us motivated and active.
  • Glycine keeps the nervous system functioning efficiently.

Micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals are vital for optimal brain health.
  • B Vitamins = energy for brain cells = helps serotonin and GABA, which aids in focus and concentration.
  • Vitamin E: one of the most potent anti-oxidants – protects the functions of the brain where high levels of oxidation can occur.
  • Vitamin C: is a vital antioxidant in the brain and is used in the synthesis of dopamine.
  • Zinc: produces serotonin and GABA and is used in hundreds of other brain pathways, and is responsible for processing short-term and long-term memory.
  • Calcium: This mineral is used to help maintain the electrical environment of the brain and to regulate nerve transmission.
  • Antioxidants: These are vital to prevent oxidative damage from toxins in the brain.
  • Sunshine = Vitamin D: around 90% of our vitamin D (a pro-hormone) is synthesised in our skin by the action of sunlight. This absolutely vital nutrient must be supplemented, as it is poorly available in the diet. At least a daily dose of 400 IU.
  • Hydration: Water is essential for optimal brain health and function, as it keeps the brain from overheating, which can cause damage and cognitive decline. A lack of water can also make you unable to concentrate. Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of fluids of water per day, preferably from clear water.

Fats – non-beneficial

Trans, hydrogenated, or animal saturated fats can displace beneficial fats and also impede the flow of oxygen and the flow of wastes away to and from the brain.

Trans fats can accumulate especially in synapses, impacting all brain communication.

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Food in Focus: Heirloom Tomatoes

FOOD IN FOCUS

HeirloomTomatoes

The reason heirloom tomatoes are popular with chefs, apart from their striking good looks is that they are much more flavourful than regular tomatoes and have pedigree. Nutrition wise they are similar, but still offer some great health benefits.

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