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Summer foods: 12 ways to boost post-lockdown health & wellbeing

Summer is here at last! Following the most challenging winter in recent history, at last we can enjoy the benefits of longer days and lighter summer foods.

In Ireland, we’re gently easing out of a very long lockdown and as the vaccine programme is rolled out, we can anticipate more freedom and happier times ahead.

It’s important now to take stock of our health, both physical and mental.  Many of us have had Covid 19 and may be struggling with after-effects.  We’ve all endured challenges to our mental health, but many continue to suffer with anxiety, depression, bereavement, and other mental illnesses caused or exacerbated by the pandemic.  Others may be returning to exercise not as fit as they were before.

During the summer months, we benefit from the longer days and any spells of good  weather.  It’s more inviting to get out & about, take a breath of fresh air, go for a walk, run, cycle or swim. And we’ve more options now as restrictions lift. So it’s time to consider how we can use this time to our advantage.

Lighter & healthier food choices in our diet appeal more at this time of  year.  Summer fruits hit the stores,  we’re cranking up our BBQs, and salads replace spuds on our plates.  Good nutrition becomes easier to achieve in our diets.  Even if you are a takeaway fiend, the choice of healthy takeaway options has never been better.   This all contributes to lifting our mood and helping our general well being.

But did you realise just how much nutrition and diet can affect depression and other aspects of our mental health?  Research has revealed that deficiencies in certain nutrients have been found in depression sufferers and that simply correcting those deficiencies can help relieve symptoms in some.

 

Nutrition Tips:

Take a look at our basic nutrition tips. They’re common sense, but following these can help improve your overall health and wellbeing.  And may also reduce the risk of diet aggravating your depression.

1. Choose less junk or refined high sugar foods; they raise depression risk.

2. Try to choose more wholegrain cereals, nuts, beans, lentils, fruit & vegetables.  Carry a supply with you, particularly if you are suffering with fatigue post-covid.  Sustaining your energy carefully over the course of the day can keep it at bay.

3. Eat regular meals throughout the day to maintain constant blood sugar.  Avoid the afternoon slump.  Again, also true post-covid to combat any lingering fatigue.

4. Include protein at each meal to ensure a continuous supply of the amino acid tryptophan to the brain.

5. Eat a wide variety of foods to keep your diet interesting and to ensure you obtain all the vitamins and minerals you need.

6.  Include oily fish in your diet – if you can’t, consider a supplement containing 1-2 grams of omega 3 EPA daily. Oily fish like Mackerel are great on the BBQ so dump the sausages in favour of a healthier option.  Omega 3 EPA can even improve response to antidepressants.

7. Maintain a healthy weight.  If you’ve got a “lockdown stone”, give yourself an easily achievable routine to get back in shape.  It could be a 30 minute walk daily but just get moving.  Even if it’s a pain and you’re sick of walking!

8. Maintain adequate fluid intake, particularly in the sun.

9. Limit your alcohol intake. Always a good idea, but it has to be said.

10. Get tested for nutritional deficiencies and use prescribed supplements where necessary.

11. Consider a probiotic to keep the gut healthy.

12. Get checked out for coeliac disease. Ireland has one of the highest rates worldwide and it can cause depressive symptoms.

Medical Advice: 

Do not undertake any radical change to diet or increase in vitamin or mineral supplements without consultation with your Doctor or Medical Practitioner.  General healthy eating tips can work alongside your doctor’s recommendations regarding medication or talk therapy. 

So take steps to ensure you make the most of the wonderful summer foods. 

It’s official! You’ll feel the better for it.