Chocolate and the ‘Winter Blues’

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting some nice women at the Ottawa MFRC, in honor of International Women’s Day.  We had a lovely evening filled with chocolate and interesting conversation.  Our topic of the evening was Seasonal Affective Disorder, or ‘SAD’, otherwise known as the winter blues.  Did you know that women are three times as likely as men to suffer from depression? SAD is a very real and common condition that many Canadians experience this time of year.  A big reason for this is our lack of sunlight and shorter days.  But, there are a few other reasons to consider.  We all have neurotransmitters in our brains, which help regulate our moods and behavior.  Two of these are serotonin, which controls our mood, and dopamine, which controls our motivation.  A deficiency in one or both of these will make us want to lay in bed or on the couch all day eating carbs and chocolate!  The reason we crave chocolate is because it increases our serotonin levels.  Have you ever thought that chocolate makes you happy?  Well, it’s true! There have been studies to prove this.  However, this does not mean it’s recommended to eat a chocolate bar a day.  Instead, have a few squares of a good, quality organic chocolate when you feel the need for a ‘pick me up’.  Choose dark chocolate with less sugar.  The darker the chocolate, the more nutrients it has.  Chocolate also contains antioxidants which lower blood pressure, cholesterol and improves blood flow to the brain and heart.  As if we needed even more reasons to eat chocolate?  Other ways to increase serotonin are to exercise, eat a good supply of complex carbohydrates throughout the day, and eat foods such as fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and eggs.   If you are worried about eggs and cholesterol, don’t.  Recent studies have found that regular consumption of eggs in a healthy diet will not raise cholesterol levels.  In fact, eggs are recommended for their excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids, and Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is another significant factor in SAD or the winter blues.  Vitamin D is produced in our skin from sun exposure.  In winter months, most Canadians are at least a little bit vitamin D deficient.  You can supplement with vitamin D, or you can increase natural food sources, such as fish and fish oil, butter and eggs.  Always choose wild fish instead of farmed, and if you are buying fish in a can, choose one that is BPA free.  Rain Coast Trading is one brand that can be found in the organic section of your grocer or natural food store.   Remember the other neurotransmitter that gives you motivation, dopamine?  Dopamine is made from tyrosine, which is made from phenylalanine.  Food sources of phenylalanine are eggs, meats, fish, nuts and seeds.  Almost all the same foods that contain tryptophan for serotonin.  Nice!  Our brain is 60% fat and needs fat to regulate nerve function.  No wonder these foods that increase serotonin and dopamine are high in fat.  So, don’t be afraid to increase your fat intake with foods such as fish, eggs, nuts and chocolate to make yourself feel better.  If you’re worried about gaining weight, get out and get active.  Burn the extra calories and increase your serotonin levels even more with physical activity.  Your body and your brain will thank you!

 

Need a chocolate treat right now?  Try this simple and easy recipe!

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

chocolate-smoothie edit11 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk

1 banana (frozen)

1 tbsp peanut butter, natural

1 tsp honey

1 tsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

 

Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve.

Option:  You may add a tbsp. of psyllium husk to add fiber, hemp or other protein powder, or flaxseed or hempseed oil for added essential fatty acids.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I love this, buuuut I am wondering if it will kill me to drink this through the summer too? Is ‘the sunlight is depressing me because i can now see how filthy my house is’ a legitimate reason to drink this?

    Seriously though, I have started a smoothie obsession, so I might have to pin this post to reference later.

    Hannah (at The Lemon Hive)

    • Also, would adding chia seeds to this be beneficial or just a big overdose of protein? I’m kinda off on what will give me protein and what won’t.

  2. Hannah, you can enjoy this smoothie all year long! 🙂 Also, adding chia seeds is a great option, as well as a protein powder (my favorite is hemp), spirulina, some green veggies like spinach, etc. What’s great about smoothies is that you can add anything. I wouldn’t worry about overdosing on protein. An ounce of chia seeds is 4 g of protein. Of course, you should count your total protein for the entire day to be sure you are getting what you need. An average person can have anywhere between 50 – 100 grams per day. Every person will have different protein needs depending on their age, gender, weight, physical activity, etc. The difference between complete and incomplete proteins is important too. Only complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids. By the way, chia seeds are a complete protein!

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