Autumn has a special place in our hearts; it is the return of all things cozy. We love our warm sweaters, simmering soups, and curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. But once the blazing fall colours begin to fade, the colder, shorter days in November can start to darken our mood. This year especially brings challenges beyond our control, so we must use the tools we have to engage in self-care, and to support our physical and mental health.
5 Healthy ways to beat the November Blues:
Focus on essential fatty acids: Your brain needs omega-3 fats, an essential fatty acid that must be obtained from your diet. Fuel your brain with omega-3s by eating fatty fish like trout and salmon at least twice a week. Vegetarians can get a dose of omega-3s by making chia puddings, or adding walnuts, or a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds, hemp hearts or ground flax seeds to their meal. Keep in mind that omega-3s in plant foods are not absorbed as efficiently. If you are strictly vegetarian/vegan3, consider taking an algae oil supplement.
Build a healthy microbiome: The microbes in your gut constantly interact with your brain4 through the gut-brain axis. You can foster a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome by eating prebiotic-rich foods such as oats, bananas (especially the unripe ones), onions and chickpeas. Eating foods that contain probiotics is important too, so include fermented items like refrigerated sauerkraut, probiotic yogurt, kefir and tempeh in your diet.
Take your sunshine vitamin: Getting optimal amounts of Vitamin D is shown to have protective effects on the brain. From November to April, the sun’s rays cannot provide us with enough Vitamin D, hence the importance of getting this vitamin from our diet. Focus on foods rich in Vitamin D like fatty fish and egg yolks or fortified foods like cow’s milk and fortified non-dairy milk like soy, almond, oat milk and rice milk. Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement, and consult a dietitian if you want information on Vitamin D supplementation.
Skip the quick fix: Sugar may be a tempting pick-me up when you’re feeling low, but remember that it’s likely to leave you feeling more irritable and hungry in the long run. Avoid keeping sugary snacks on hand (we see you, leftover Halloween candy!), and fill your fridge with healthy snacks you enjoy to curb your craving and keep you energized.
Move for mental health: It is hard to get motivated to exercise when energy is running low, and it is cold and dark outside. But did you know that just 20 minutes of movement is sufficient to improve our mood? Get moving however you like to move – yoga, push-ups, dancing in your living room, even vacuuming! Moving your body improves mental health instantly, but also in the long run! Get moving in the morning to start the day right or after a long day’s work.
The month of November is hard for many of us, and especially this year, but remember that the holidays are around the corner which often brightens our mood. In the meantime, take the opportunity to bolster your physical and mental health, and consult an FSEAP dietitian if you need guidance on how to eat well to feel your best. If you need help to manage depression symptoms, reach out to seek professional help.
1. Anglin, R. E., McDonald, S. D., Walter, S. D., & Samaan, Z. (2013, February). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from PubMed. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666.
2. (1) Gozdzik, A., Barta, J. L., Wu, H., Wagner, D., Cole, D. E., Vieth, R., . . . Parra, E. J. (2008, September 26). Low wintertime vitamin D levels in a sample of healthy young adults of diverse ancestry living in the Toronto area: Associations with vitamin D intake and skin pigmentation. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from PubMed. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-336.
(2) Baraké, R., Weler, H., Payette, H., & Gray-Donald, K. (2010, March). Vitamin D supplement consumption is required to achieve a minimal target 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of or = 75 nmol/L in older people. Retrieved September 24, 2020. doi:10.3945/jn.109.115626
(3) LUXA-D Product Monograph. Orimed Pharma Inc., May 30, 2019
3. Arterburn, L. M., Oken, H. A., Hall, E. B., Hamersley, J., Kuratko, C. N., & Hoffman, J. P. (2008, July). Algal-oil capsules and cooked salmon: Nutritionally equivalent sources of docosahexaenoic acid. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from PubMed. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.04.020.
4. Gozdzik, A., Barta, J. L., Wu, H., Wagner, D., Cole, D. E., Vieth, R., . . . Parra, E. J. (2008, September 26). Low wintertime vitamin D levels in a sample of healthy young adults of diverse ancestry living in the Toronto area: Associations with vitamin D intake and skin pigmentation. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from PubMed. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-336.