Seasonal Affective Disorder

For all of my followers in the northeast United States, it’s that time of the year again!

The sun is rising late and setting early, the sky is cloudy, and the temperature is dropping. All this can contribute to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).

S.A.D. affects about 6% of the United States every year. Common symptoms may include oversleeping, low energy, carb cravings, poor focus, social withdrawal, lack of pleasure, and hopelessness.

It is believed that S.A.D. is caused by a lack of sunlight, resulting in a skewed circadian rhythm and lowered serotonin levels.

Fortunately, there are many things one can do to combat symptoms and improve their emotions and outlook.

The first step is to purchase a “lightbox” for light therapy. These emit a much brighter and whiter light than typical lamps. Exposure to this bright light, particularly first thing in the morning, will simulate the sunrise, improving serotonin production and establishing a healthy circadian rhythm.

I am in the process of purchasing such a light source and will provide a review of my personal experience with this protocol.

The second recommendation is to stay active. Find 30 to 60 minutes every day for exercise. Exercise is known to improve mood by providing a sense of success as well as releasing endorphins in the brain.

The last recommendation I can make is to eat healthy. This means starting your day with a large serving of protein and ending your day with a moderate serving of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or fruits. Adequate protein in the morning, and throughout the day, will provide the body and brain with amino acids necessary for healthy cognitive function and stable emotions. Carbs at night will help induce sleep and up-regulate serotonin production. Eat fewer carbs throughout the day to avoid blood sugar crashes, causing lethargy and furthering negative emotions.

Many people find success with certain supplements. I personally have tried 5-HTP (a serotonin precursor), GABA (a dopamine precursor), and melatonin (the brains natural sleep chemical). Thus far, the melatonin seems to be the most effective, but only at regulating proper sleep-wake cycles. I noticed no results from any other supplement, regardless of timing or dose.

I do increase my supplemental Vitamin D in the winter from 2,000 to 5,000 or 10,000 a day. I don’t notice a direct result from this but I’m lucky if I get 5 minutes of direct sunlight a day when the temperature drops below freezing. Sunlight is our only significant source of vitamin D, and low levels have been linked to depression as well as many physical conditions.

Finally, there is always the option of medications. If feelings of hopelessness or despair become strong enough, visit a doctor to discuss further options.

I will post a follow up after I experiment with light therapy / dawn simulation for a few weeks. Try these tactics and let me know if you have some of your own!

SAD

Steamed Mussels

steamed mussels

Let’s try a new topic for today’s post – a quick and simple recipe for one of the most nutritious and tasty meals you can eat – steamed mussels!

Two of the biggest barriers to healthy eating are cost and time. With this meal, neither of those should be an issue.

Mussels are one of the few creatures that can be “farm-raised” without any major detriment to their life and resulting nutritional quality. Farm-raised fish are fed diets of soy and corn or forced to grow in overpopulated areas. However, mussels attach to a surface and filter their food from the water so there is little need for producers to manipulate their development.  For this reason, you will be able to find affordable frozen bags of mussels in the pre-packaged seafood section of your market. One market near me always has 3 lbs for $5.99.

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Now, to the kitchen:

Pour mussels directly into large empty pot

Cover and cook on high for 10-15 minutes

Once mussels have opened, uncover and remove from heat

While they cool, melt a few tablespoons of grass-fed butter in frying pan

Add crushed garlic, chopped shallots, Italian seasonings, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper

Separate soft edible parts of mussels from shell and toss in butter and seasonings for a minute

Turn off heat and place spinach or other green leafy vegetables on top of mussels and cover

Let sit for 5 minutes as greens cook down

Optional: Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and vinegar before serving

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Counting prep time, this should take less than 30 minutes. I made these over the weekend and portioned them out as my lunches for Tuesday and Thursday. They have been amazing!

Now, to the lab:

Haha, I crack myself up. But in all seriousness, I did want to share the unbelievable nutrient quality of mussels. Just 3 ounces of mussels, maybe half a serving, contains the following:

700mg Omega 3 and 20g protein

15 – 30 % of Vitamin C; Thiamin; Riboflavin; Folate; Niacin; Zinc; Iron; and Phosphorus needs for the day

100% Selenium; 300% Manganese; and 340% Vitamin B12

Selenium, Manganese, and Vitamin B deficiencies are extremely common in the United States. Also, considering their high-quality protein and omega-3 content, they are the perfect food to round out a pesco-vegetarian diet.

For these nutritional reasons, as well as the rich buttery taste, I prepare a couple dishes of mussels every month or two.

I hope this post, albeit shorter, proves to be even more practical. Like everything else: experiment! If it tastes good to you, that’s all that matters!

Enjoy!