Can there really be some foods that cause depression? Not directly but it is possible that foods can have an effect on your mood and indirectly affect your condition. See some of the foods you might need to be careful with here.
Eating when depressed
We all need to eat to sustain our life but sometimes there is more to it especially for depressed ones. The overwhelming feeling of sadness that is characteristic of depression can affect so many parts of life and it’s exceptionally difficult to find the motivation to do anything, for example, when you find it hard to even get out of bed, you will not even feel like eating, and this impacts your health in general.
Because sometimes depression can lead to overeating (or lack of eating mentioned earlier), which further impacts your mood, changes in lifestyle are often recommended in combination with psychotherapy and medication to help people with depression. This helps to get back to basics and focusing on healthy sleep habits, nutritious eating, and daily exercise can help boost your mood.
Foods to be careful with
With these suggestions in mind, it helps to look at your daily eating habits and consider possible changes. Start by figuring out your baseline: What foods do you typically reach for when you’re feeling depressed? What are your daily eating habits? Do you stick to certain “comfort” foods or does your diet include a wide variety of foods?
While directly,there might not be foods that cause depression, there might be some foods that affect your mood and make depression worse. Why not take some time to consider whether or not some of your go-to foods negatively affect your mood and where you can make some changes.
You might have craving for things like pretzels, white bread, and soda when you’re depressed, but be careful. Research have shown that eating too many refined carbohydrates is linked with depression. One study on women with no history of depression, substance abuse, or other forms of mental illness found that eating refined carbohydrates cause an increase in blood sugar levels and increased the risk of depression.
The good news here is that the same study also found that a diet rich in whole grains and produce actually lowers the risk of depression.
Given the research on refined carbohydrates, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that eating sugar might also be contributing to depression. A diet high in sugar can increase inflammation throughout the body and the brain, and recent research links brain inflammation to a higher risk of depression.
One study found that brain inflammation was 30% higher in depressed patients. A fluctuation of high blood sugar followed by a crash might actually cause more than just a quick change in emotions, it might actually be a contributory factor to the brain inflammation associated with depression. Avoid the candy counter when you’re feeling blue and grab a healthy alternative when you get a sugar craving.
We all love the easy method isn’t it? You might feel like opening that can is the easiest way to fuel your body when you are low on energy and feeling depressed, but think twice before you grab that can opener. A British study of more than 3,000 people found that those who ate the most processed food faced an increased rate of depression, while those who ate more whole foods had a much lower risk of the disease.
You’ll want to stay away from fried chicken, French fries, and other items doused in hydrogenated oils if you’re battling depression. The same artery-clogging trans fats that increase your risk of heart disease can also increase your risk of depression.
A study that evaluated the association between fatty acid intake or the use of culinary fats and depression in a Mediterranean population found a detrimental link between trans fatty acid intake and risk for depression.
It’s natural to crave sweets, salty stuff, and fried items when you’re feeling down, but clearly research shows us that a healthy diet high in whole foods is better for your mood. Limit the comfort foods and ask a friend or loved one to help you jump start a healthy eating plan, instead.
Things to note
Always eat healthy. While there there might be no foods that cause depression, they are some that might increase the risk of this condition. Do not forget to take note of these foods when and if you do have cravings for them, they might not help your condition. On the contrast,there are some other foods and supplements which can easily help you reduce some of your depression symptoms while boosting your mental health and alertness.Learn more about a few of them here.
Want to read more?
- 1. Gangwisch, J., et al, “High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 24, 2015, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103846.
- 2. Setiawan, E., et al, “Role of Translocator Protein Density, a Marker of Neuroinflammation, in the Brain During Major Depressive Episodes,” JAMA Psychiatry, 2015;72(3): Pages 268-275.
- 3. Akbaraly, T. et al., “Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Nov; 195(5): 408–413.
- 4. Sanchez-Villegas, A., et al., “Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Depression: The SUN Project,” PLOS One, January 26, 2011.