Sugar and white flour Delicious in Aunt Mildred’s homemade apple pie, abundant in many packaged and processed food products, these two foods are famous for causing our blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and then come crashing down. This roller coaster ride isn’t much fun, as it can leave us feeling irritable, tired, and anxious. I’m not saying you should avoid eating a slice of Aunt Mildred’s pie, but keeping it to the occasional indulgence is important if you want to keep your blood sugars steady.
Trans fatty acids Trans fats (aka hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated oils) are formed when a natural fatty acid is changed into an unnatural form by the addition of hydrogen molecules. This doesn’t sound all that harmful, but consuming trans fats actually interferes with the body’s ability to use essential fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids. Insufficient omega-3 fat intake has been linked to many health conditions, including depression, learning difficulties and hyperactivity.
Food additives This includes artificial flavors (such as MSG), sweeteners (such as aspartame and Splenda), and food colorings found in many packaged and processed foods. Certain additives can act as neurotoxins in some people, causing symptoms such as migraines, insomnia, anxiety and depression. While some experts maintain that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support this idea, common sense tells us that compared to eating a simple whole food such as an apple, eating a food additive made in a lab is going to have an adverse affect on our health, whether it is to increase inflammation or bring on a migraine or other unwanted outward symptom.
Gluten A reaction to gluten can cause many health issues, including headaches and migraines, brain fog, anxiety and even depression. If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms and haven’t been able to determine the cause, it would be worth talking to your doctor or nutritionist about possible gluten sensitivity. They might recommend a blood test or even an elimination diet.
Overuse of caffeine Moderate doses of caffeine (200-300 mg, or 2 to 4 cups of brewed coffee per day) are not likely to be harmful for most healthy adults, and can even have the beneficial effect of improving concentration and alleviating fatigue. But some people are more sensitive to caffeine, and even a small amount can cause unwanted effects such as disrupting sleep and feeling jittery or anxious.
Eating a whole foods diet, rich in fresh, organic fruits and veggies and healthy fats could have a significant impact on alleviating the blues and many other symptoms. We can’t always cook from scratch, so when choosing packaged foods read labels carefully and buy the foods with recognizable (i.e. found in nature!) ingredients. Ask yourself, ‘Can I imagine it growing?’ If the answer is no, skip it and find an alternative.
Have you discovered certain foods that significantly affect your mood?
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.