January blues

5 tips to beat the January blues

A nutritionist’s guide to helping you to lift your mental and physical health this winter

Christmas and New Year celebrations have come and gone; the weather is icy cold and the mornings and evenings dark. All of this seems to go hand in hand with what people term the ‘January blues’, along with fatigue, loss of energy, feeling sluggish, problems sleeping and low mood. But it doesn’t have to be this way, says Lola Biggs, registered dietitian and nutritionist at natural health supplement brand Together Health (togetherhealth.co.uk). Here, Lola helps us share five ways to beat the winter blues.

Eat and avoid the right foods

Lola: “It feels comforting to reach for the carbs during the winter months, however, too many of these can have a negative impact on energy levels. You’ll have more energy if you eat plenty of fruit and veg along with slow releasing foods.

Make hearty and healthy stews full of parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes and pulses and try and eat a rainbow of fruit and veg every day. Cut back on sugary treats for that afternoon pick me up as it’ll just end up in a short-lived sugar high crash.

Opt for healthy high-energy snacks like bananas and apples, dried fruit, nuts, like almonds, as these provide magnesium, a mineral that helps produce energy, red peppers, carrots and houmous. Also look at sleep inducing foods like nuts and seeds. These contain amino acid tryptophan, which is used in the brain to synthesise the sleep hormone melatonin.”

Get enough sunshine

Lola: “Lack of sunshine can disrupt the delicate balance of your circadian rhythm, AKA your body clock. Try and get out during the daytime for some exercise, even if it’s just for a brisk walk — this will help reduce blood pressure, boost energy and lift the mood.

I like to get out first thing in the morning as it gives a healthy dose of feelgood endorphins to kick start my day. Another reason why we may feel fatigued in winter is low levels or lack of Vitamin D — the sunshine vitamin. As there is less light, our bodies start feeling tired even if we really aren’t. It’s a good idea to boost your health with a supplement.”

Vegans should double check supplements, since vitamin D is often obtained from lanolin from sheep wool. Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based vitamin D supplements out there, sourced from lichen, algae and mushrooms.

As well as supplementing, there are certain foods which are high in vitamin D — like mushrooms, especially chanterelle, shitake and oyster varieties. Before you cook mushrooms, leave them on a sunlit windowsill for an hour; this will help them to absorb more vitamin D.

Chill out

Lola: “Stress plays a huge factor when it comes to tiredness and can zap our energy.

There’s no quick fix, however, taking mindful steps such as breathing exercises, warm magnesium baths before bed, regular exercise, screen time breaks and avoiding caffeine as well as that evening glass of wine, can all help you feel more relaxed.

Natural supplements have also been shown to aid sleep and reduce stress and one of the most powerful is the adaptogen ashwagandha. Full spectrum ashwagandha extract helps increase energy by enhancing your body’s resilience to physical and mental stress.”

Reboot your sleep

Lola: “Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep — it’s vital for fighting off tiredness, stress and winter bugs. But beware hibernation mode. It’s tempting to oversleep during dark winter months, but this can also make you feel sluggish.

You should be aiming for about eight hours a night and try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to encourage a healthy bedtime routine. Natural remedies can also be hugely beneficial such as a marine magnesium complex. A comforting and calming blend of different natural forms of magnesium can help you to feel rested and restored.”

Aside from supplementation, enjoy calming activities before bed that avoid blue light from screens; try practising meditation, listening to an audio book or music, reading ~ or journaling.

Take B12 to boost your energy

Lola: “As we age, our energy naturally starts to decline. At the same time, our ability to absorb B12 — the body’s energy vitamin — decreases leaving us tired more easily. Vitamin B12 is important as it helps us maintain our get-up-and-go as well as helping protect brain health, blood pressure and good cholesterol.

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products, so if you are vegan you might struggle to get enough as plant foods have no B12 unless they are fortified.” B12 fortified foods to include in your diet are nutritional yeast, cereals, plant milk, tofu, tempeh and Marmite.

Lola’s recommended supplements:

• Together Health Vitamin D3 capsules, £6.99

• Together Health’s Night Time Marine Magnesium Complex, £12.99

• Together Health Stress Aid Supplement, £9.99

• Together Health Vitamin B12 Shiitake Mushroom Supplement, £9.49.

For more from Lola and Together Health, visit togetherhealth.co.uk

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.