Over the last two posts on SAD we have been on a journey from the cave and the struggles of ancient man to survive the harsh winter cold with minimum access to light, food, heat and stimulation. On that journey we have explored the causes of modern man’s struggle to adapt to the modern world of technology and 24/7 light, noise and stimulation of all the senses. The solutions are not perfect but the areas that we have covered are the starting point to changing the way we look at both our bodies and how we manage the seasonal changes most of us face.
A quick recap – we need healthy amounts of Vitamin D from sunshine and some foods and healthy cholesterol to produce all hormones in our body. Tryptophan and B-vitamin rich foods to produce essential hormones in the brain – melatonin and serotonin. We have to eat these foods regularly throughout the day. Better to have 6 smaller meals of the right foods than starve all day and then have a big meal at night that cannot be digested and processed by the body. This regularity will also drip feed the essential nutrients into your body, keeping energy levels higher and the neurotransmitters in your brain firing on all cylinders. Avoid taking in high carbohydrate and sweet foods later at night. A cup of warm milk with a small teaspoon of honey before bed will help activate the melatonin to send you to sleep.
We need to exercise, (with music particularly) to stimulate the production of dopamine and activate our reward centres in the brain and we need the support, companionship and warmth of our clan – that is to say our family and close friends. Having a dog that needs to be walked will not only encourage you to exercise all year around but also has added health benefits associated with caring for a pet.
I appreciate that for those working full-time it is difficult to establish a regular exercise pattern but if you really want to feel alive and vital through these next few months (Australians and South Africans are of course are exempt as they move into summer) then you are going to have to find ways to get outside during the daylight hours and get some exercise. So lunchtimes will have to be – 30 minutes brisk walk and then back for a protein, vegetable or salad, moderate carbohydrate lunch.
Filling your lungs with oxygen and maintaining flexibility are two very important factors as we age and if you suffer from arthritis or any other joint related disease, gentle but regular movement is essential. (you will find a link to some breathing exercises at the end of the post)
You can go to the gym, a swimming pool and if you do not have access to that sort of facility then buy a treadmill, second hand ones are quite reasonable, or simply put your favourite music on and dance like no-one is watching!!
INTERACTION WITH OTHERS
The clan would have worked together, sitting by the fires which produced the only light, telling stories, educating the young, working on the first tools and fashioning utensils from natural sources such as the autumn gourds. Even perhaps, making drums from those gourds and producing the first beats of music. I am sure that laughter was part of those dark days and nights as humour cannot just have developed in our modern world. The dynamics of the relationships within the clan can only be imagined because despite all the evidence found, we simply were not there!
The good news is that even if you are separated by thousands of miles or even a few hundred you can still keep in touch with your clan members and friends. The virtual cave we all live in now offers a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged with the world, learn new skills online, have conference calls via Skype, catch up with gossip on Twitter or Facebook and communicate. Keeping our brain exercised, eating a nutrient rich diet and taking a 30 minute brisk walk daily may keep us whole in body, mind and soul our entire lives.
I firmly believe that our bodies contain ancestral memory. And, because our DNA mutates so infrequently every 10,000 years or so, like instinctive behaviour in all animals, we do have deep seated and essential needs for certain foods, nutrients, activities, emotional connections and mental stimulation that we still must provide to be healthy physically and mentally and to be simply happy. However, you cannot just sit passively and wait for all these elements to come together magically. You have to grab with both hands and participate.
So you now have the components for the plan to make this winter healthier and mentally manageable.
I have given you the elements for the project – but you are the one who needs to put it into practice. It will not be easy to change habits of a lifetime, or get into a new routine with new foods having given up those you feel you get comfort from. However, many years ago I had to make those same decisions and now winter is simply a beautiful season that is to be enjoyed and not feared.
As an additional tool I have put together a shopping list with a difference. You can cut and paste in to your word documents and then print off to take with you next time you buy food.
Most of us make a shopping list based on our preferences, tastes and sometimes pocket. But I have a slightly different method that you might find useful. The chemical interactions within our body that are essential for life – including the healthy functioning of our immune system – are only made possible by the raw ingredients in our diet. Even if you are having the occasional food fest, if your basic diet contains the right raw ingredients it won’t matter to your body. It is the everyday ingestion of sugars, Trans fats and white starches that cripples the system – remember the 80/20 rule. If 80% of the time your body is getting what it needs, 20% of the time you can have what your heart and taste buds would like too. Here are three lists – the nutrients we need – then the foods that are some of the best sources for those nutrients and then a basic shopping list that will provide your body with the raw ingredients for long term health.
FIRST THE BASIC NUTRIENTS WE NEED FOR ENERGY AND HEALTHY FUNCTIONING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AND ORGANS.
Vitamins and anti-oxidants – A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (Folate) B12, C, D, E, K,
Minerals – Calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc.
Amino Acids – Essential Fatty Acids – Bioflavonoids – very strong anti-oxidants.
BEST FOOD SOURCES FOR THOSE NUTRIENTS
Quite a few foods fall into several categories so I will give you the top sources within the groups- these are the foods that should make up your basic shopping with seasonal fruits and vegetables when available.
For example, spinach has Vitamin A, B1, B2, B9, E, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium – I have included in the first group only. (Popeye knew what he was doing)
Vitamin A – carrots, red peppers, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, nectarines, peaches and spinach. Cashew nuts.
Vitamin B1 – Pineapple, watermelon, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, oats, brown rice, lentils, beans, eggs, lean ham and pork.
B2 – All green leafy vegetables, fish, milk, wheat germ, liver and kidney
B3 – Asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, wholegrain bread and cereals. Turkey, Salmon, tuna, and cheese.
B5 – Corn, Cauliflower, Brewer’s yeast, avocado, duck, soybeans, lobster and strawberries.
B6 – Walnuts, bananas, lamb
B9 (folate) – nuts, beans and dark green vegetables.
B12 – offal, dairy, marmite,
Vitamin C – virtually all fruit and vegetables already mentioned but also blackcurrants, blueberries, kiwi, cherries, grapefruits, oranges and watercress.
Vitamin D – Eggs, tinned salmon – fresh and tinned herrings.
Vitamin E – almonds, maize, apples, onions, shell fish, sunflower oil.
Vitamin K – dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, eggs.
Calcium – dairy, sardines, canned salmon, green leafy vegetables.
Chromium – Whole grains, potatoes, onions and tomatoes – liver, seafood, cheese, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and pork
Copper – olives, nuts, beans, wholegrain cereals, dried fruits, meat, fish and poultry.
Iodine – cod, mackerel, haddock, eggs, live yoghurt, milk and strawberries.
Iron – shellfish, prunes, spinach, meats, cocoa.
Magnesium –dairy, seafood, apples, apricots, avocado, brown rice, spinach.
Manganese – beans, brown rice, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, fresh fruit.
Phosphorus – poultry, whole grains.
Potassium – most fresh fruit and vegetables but in particular bananas, apricots, Brussel sprouts, kiwi, nectarines, potatoes.
Selenium – halibut, cod, salmon and tuna, mushrooms and Brazil Nuts.
Sodium – usually enough in our food but no more than 1 level teaspoon a day.
Zinc– seafood, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks and tofu.
Essential fatty acids –
Omega 3 – flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, avocados, dark green vegetables, poultry and salmon.
Omega 6 – olive oil and some of the above.
Omega 9 – avocado, olives, almonds.
Amino Acids – dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, soybeans, nuts and seeds.
THE SHOPPING LIST
To ensure that you have everything in your basic diet to provide the nutrients you need your shopping list would look something like the following. Aim for at least 8 portions of fruit and vegetables per day not five. If you eat these foods each week you will be providing your body with the basic nutrients it needs to be healthy – you can obviously add other foods when you are eating out or for variety. Do try and avoid processed foods – pre-cut vegetables (lost high percentage of nutrients) and make sauces from these fresh ingredients for pasta and rice dishes. Make your own whole grain pizza base with fresh toppings. You will notice the difference in flavour.
Vegetables – carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, corn on the cob- any dark cabbage or Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, dark lettuce leaves, cucumbers, celery, avocados and potatoes.
Fruit – Bananas, apples, pears, oranges, kiwi and any dark berries that are reasonably priced – try frozen. When in season – pineapples, apricots, cantaloupe melon, watermelon.
Wholegrains – brown rice- wholegrain bread – whole wheat pasta – Weetabix – shredded wheat – porridge oats. If you make your own bread then use wholegrain flour. Please do not buy sugar or chocolate covered cereals – more sugar than goodness.
Fish – Salmon fresh and tinned- cod – haddock (again frozen can be a good option) any white fish on offer – shellfish once a week such as mussels. Tinned sardines, Tuna and herrings – great for lighter meals.
Meat and poultry and Tofu- chicken or turkey – lamb, beef and pork. Lean ham for sandwiches, Venison if you enjoy it. Liver provides a wonderful array of nutrients served with onions and vegetables is delicious. Tofu for vegetarians has become more accessible and can be used by non-vegetarians once a week to provide the other benefits of soya it offers. Bacon once a week is fine but do bear in mind that most processed meats contain a lot of salt.
Nuts and seeds – to put on your cereal in the mornings or as snacks – check prices out in your health food shop as well as supermarket. Almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts.
Dairy and Eggs- milk, butter and cheese (better to have the real stuff than whipped margarine) – yoghurt. Free Range Eggs – have at least three or four a week.
Oils – Extra virgin Olive Oil (least processed) – great drizzled on vegetables with some seasoning and also eaten the Spanish way with balsamic vinegar on salads and also drizzled over toasted fresh bread. If you do not like the taste of Olive Oil then use Sunflower oil – do not use the light version of any oil as it has been processed heavily – use the good stuff.
Honey and extras – rather than spoonfuls of sugar on your cereal etc, try honey. Try and find a local honey to you. Dark chocolate – over 70% a one or two squares per day particularly with a lovely cup of Americano coffee is a delicious way to get your antioxidants. Cocoa is great with some hot milk before bed – antioxidants and melatonin in a cup.
I know how devastating the effects of the dark months can be, not just on those who suffer the symptoms but for the people in their lives. Having read the last week or so of blogs, I hope you will find a new way of eating and living that will help you.
Here is the link to the last two SAD posts and one on the importance of breathing correctly.
If you need any more information or need some help then you are very welcome to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please leave your comments and also reblog if you feel that others might find this series of interest.
Thank you Sally