5 Foods to Avoid to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

5 Foods to Avoid to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you live in the Pacific Northwest as we do, you know how 9 months of rain can keep you on the couch binge watching Netflix for days on end. While certainly acceptable in moderation, this can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder; defined by the MayoClinic as a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. While a lack of Vitamin D certainly plays a factor, which we would normally absorb from the sun in the summer, there are many foods that can wreak havoc on your mood.

1) Added Sugars

Anything with added sugars will elevate your insulin and cause you to crash later in the day. Aim to get your sugars naturally through healthy fruits. Check ingredient labels, sugar hides in everything from your salad dressing to beef jerky. While better for you than artificial sweeteners, even natural sugars will cause a glycemic effect.

Common added sugars:

  • Cane Sugar/Syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Maple Syrup
  • Corn Syrup
  • Fruit Nectors

2) Artificial Sweeteners

Specifically, aspartame which has been linked to increased anxiety and depression. Artificial sugar and sugar alcohol has the same insulin response as regular sugar, but your body cannot process these effectively. This will often cause inflammation and digestive discomfort. Many manufactured foods use artificial sweeteners because they are lower in calories but still yield a sweet taste.

Common artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

3) Processed Carbs

Processed carbohydrates are usually stripped of fiber and nutrients making them easier for your body to digest, creating a high glycemic effect (insulin spike). In addition, they often contain a lot of added sugar that you may not realize.

Common processed carbs:

  • White Rice
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Flour

4) Caffeine

If you are getting over 200-300 mg of caffeine a day you may want to look at decreasing your intake. This doesn’t mean cutting it completely but if you are a 3-4 cup of coffee a day drinker aim to slowly wean yourself down to two cups and then eventually one. Too much caffeine can induce adrenal fatigue, forcing your body to rely on the drug for energy. Caffeine is also a natural vasoconstrictor, so if you have high blood pressure, risk of heart disease, or regularly anxious, coffee can trigger symptoms.

5) Wheat

Not everyone has celiac disease (gluten intolerant), but that doesn’t mean wheat can’t have negative effects on your body. Most wheat is sprayed with glyphosate when grown which can block the mood calming micronutrients like magnesium and zinc. In addition, wheat grown in the U.S. has a much higher gluten concentration than many other producers. For many people, this can cause an inflammatory response when consuming wheat products because our body is overrun with gluten, stimulating a micro-allergic effect.

Important Tips

  • Don’t try to cut all of these things at once! Start with perhaps your biggest culprit and see how you feel and how it affects your mood on a daily basis.
  • Remember that moderation is key. These things aren’t inherently bad but overconsumption leads to issues.
Joshua Lieb

Joshua Lieb

Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist