Sugar, artificial sweeteners, high sodium foods, dairy products, wheat bran, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, gluten, genetically modified organisms (gmos) and vegetable oils are some of the foods that can cause depression.
Depression is characterized by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. But it can be combated to an extent through changes in one’s lifestyle. Diet is a very important component of mental health. Believe it or not, the food you eat can affect your mental health. There are certain foods that cause depression or elevate depression. Simple food choices can go a long way in avoiding depression. Here, we have mentioned the major foods that are bad for depression and why.
11 Foods to Avoid If You Have Depression
Whether sugar is consumed in obvious forms like chocolate or soda or non-obvious forms like pasta, it leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This leads to increase in insulin. Insulin decreases blood sugar levels which results in a blood sugar crash. Cortisol tries to move sugar back into the bloodstream. This process is called hypoglycemia. It is responsible for carb and sugar cravings because the brain needs steady sugar levels in order to function. This leads to conditions like irritability and anxiety and ultimately depression. Excessive sugar consumption leads to your brain working at a sub-optimal level which again leads to mental illnesses such as depression
High blood sugar also causes brain inflammation, which, as mentioned earlier, can cause depression. In fact, balancing blood sugar levels is one of the most effective ways to combat depression.
Aspartame is a common ingredient found in products like diet soda. It is an artificial sweetener, acting as a substitute for sugar. It blocks the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which leads to mood dips, headaches and insomnia. It can also ultimately lead to depression.
High sodium foods
The large amounts of sodium in high sodium foods lead to disruption of the neurological system which can contribute to depression. It can also lead to bloating and water retention which leads to irritability which can further lead to depression. Depression can be combated by avoiding high sodium foods like frozen foods, sauces, cereals and baked goods.
Dairy products contain a protein called casein which causes inflammation in the body. This protein has been linked to several psychiatric conditions ranging from schizophrenia to depression. Although, it is to be noted that not everyone is affected by dairy and some people can tolerate certain types of dairy. If you’re suffering from depression, it is suggested that you eliminate dairy from your diet and see if it affects your mental health positively.
Wheat bran contains a high concentration of phytic acid. This proves to be an anti-nutrient because it limits the absorption of important mood minerals such as zinc. Inadequate levels of zinc can lead to anxiety and further, depression. Thus, wheat bran should be avoided, especially by people already suffering from depression. However, soaking and cooking can reduce the anti-nutrient content in whole grains and dried beans.
It is common knowledge that alcohol is hazardous for the body. It can cause many serious health problems. It is also known to be a central nervous system depressant. The responsibility of the central nervous system is to take in information through the five primary senses and control motor functions and many other tasks. Excess consumption of alcohol slows down these processes. This leads to increase in symptoms that are related to depression. The central nervous system is also responsible for the flow of emotion. Alcohol creates a cluster inside the central nervous system, thus disrupting the flow of emotion. Hence, it can be called a depressant.
Coffee, because of its caffeine content, definitely has its benefits. But these benefits can be completely reversed if it is consumed in excessive amounts. Excessive consumption can lead to disturbed sleep patterns, agitation, irritability and anxiety. These can in turn disrupt one’s mood and lead to depression. According to studies, excessive consumption of other drinks which have caffeine content, such as energy drinks, can also cause depression.
Just the way it is bad for the physical health, processed food is also bad for our mental health as well. Consumption of processed carbohydrates like white bread, fried food or any heavy junk food leads to a spike in blood sugar levels. This can initially give the person an energy boost. But consumed on a longer term, it can leave the person irritated, fatigued and sad. In fact, a study conducted in Britain found that those who ate the most processed food faced an increased risk of depression. On the other hand, those who consumed more whole foods had a much lower risk of depression.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and a few other foods. It can cause inflammation in the body by irritating the gut and gut microbes as well as the intestinal tissues. Being a sticky protein, it can also cause clumping together of food particles which leads to interference in digestion. This causes adverse effects which can lead to depression.
Vegetable oils include sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Many foods like store bought cookies, salad dressings, etc., contain these oils. These oils are created through many high-heat and high-pressure steps and chemical solvents. They contain trans-fat which causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation can cause depression, as mentioned earlier in the article. In addition, trans-fats can clog the arteries, which along with causing heart diseases also increase the risk of depression.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
GMO foods are those whose genetic designs are manipulated. Additionally, they are heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. They contain chemicals that are toxic to not only microbial but also human cells. The toxins contained in them can possibly cause depression.
The bottom line is that a change in your diet can work wonders by helping you avoid depression or by drastically changing your condition if you already suffer from it. Include more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, fish, protein, etc., and avoid excessive consumption of the foods mentioned previously.