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8 Foods That May Cause Depression

Fast foods, alcohol, energy drinks, and certain other foods and drinks can make depression symptoms worse.

Talk therapy and medication are the two primary treatment options for people with depression. But self-care measures can also be of great benefit. While this includes sleeping well, exercising regularly, and practicing meditation, there is one other element that you may not have considered: diet.

When you’re suffering from depressive symptoms like sadness, overwhelming emotions, or lack of energy, you sometimes see food as a pick-me-up – maybe a bag of crisps for comfort or a sugary snack to boost your energy quickly.

However, there is a lot of scientific research that confirms the link between nutritional quality and depression. While some foods can relieve symptoms, others can make them worse. So what are the main culprits to avoid?

Fast food is cheap, practical and (mostly) tastes good. However, researchers believe there is a link between depression and inflammation in the body, and inflammation is made worse by ingredients that are often found in large amounts in fast food dishes, such as artificial trans fats, refined carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar.

One large study found that people who regularly eat fast foods were 40% more likely to develop depression, and researchers suggest that the high levels of trans fats in fast food products were a major contributing factor. Meanwhile, other researchers found that people who eat fast food frequently were less resilient to depressive symptoms.

What should you try instead?

When turning to fast food restaurants for convenience and cheaper prices, try to choose a healthier choice on the menu whenever possible, such as: B. a salad and wrap instead of burger and fries.

Many people enjoy a glass or two of wine to lift their spirits, and it’s hardly surprising – alcohol promotes the release of serotonin (aka the “happy chemical”) in our brains.

However, in people with depression, consuming alcohol could have the opposite effect, as studies suggest that higher consumption can lead to increased symptoms. This is sometimes called an “alcohol-induced depressive disorder,” which occurs only shortly after drinking alcohol or during withdrawal.

As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals, alcohol affects various pathways in the brain, which in turn affect mood and behavior.

In addition, drinking alcohol can make antidepressants less effective.

What should you try instead?

Consider exploring non-alcoholic options like mocktails or 0% beer, which will allow you to enjoy the taste with no alcohol content.

Regardless of what some diet plans suggest, there is generally nothing wrong with eating grains like rice and wheat. However, during the process of refining them (e.g. turning brown rice into white rice), much of their beneficial nutrients are lost.

A lot of research supports the link between unrefined grains and depression. For example, a study in post-menopausal women showed that those who ate refined grains were at higher risk of developing new depression. Meanwhile, researchers who analyzed the diets of over 1,600 adults found that those who ate unrefined grains were at lower risk for depressive symptoms.

What should you try instead?

Whole grains offer both flavor and vitamins, so consider eating brown rice or whole grain or whole grain breads instead of the white ones. You can also try adding other grains to your diet like buckwheat or bulgur.

We have long been warned about the dangers of consuming too much salt, particularly its negative effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. But heart disease is not just physical. It’s also linked to a greater risk of mental health problems.

But salt can affect the brain not only through the heart. Human and animal studies have found links between high salt intake and increased inflammation in the body. Animal studies have also shown the ingredient’s negative effects on the gut microbiome and blood flow to the brain. All of these effects can contribute to depression and impaired cognitive function.

What should you try instead?

Salt is necessary for our body to function properly and to support everything from muscle function to nerve transmission. This means you don’t want to cut it out completely. Instead, try to reduce your intake by not sprinkling an extra teaspoon (or two) over meals.

Refined sugar negatively affects a number of physical health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to obesity and some cancers. However, it has been shown that high intake also affects psychological well-being.

Some research suggests a possible link between sugar intake and depression, and researchers believe this ingredient has several long-term negative effects on the body that promote this compound.

These include:

  • increased inflammation and hormone imbalance, both of which are related to mood
  • a potential impact on the growth and development of brain cells and proteins
  • Influence on neurotransmitters in the brain

After all, not so cute!

What should you try instead?

These sweet snacks and treats can be difficult to avoid altogether. So when shopping, consider looking for options that are lower in sugar to reduce your intake.

It can be helpful to read the ingredients list on the label. It’s ranked from highest to lowest amount, meaning it has most of the first ingredient, second most of the second ingredient, and so on. If a type of sugar is in the first three to four ingredients, the product is likely quite sugary.

If you’re trying to cut down on refined sugars, you might think that artificial sweeteners are a better option. However, research suggests that these can also contribute to a wide variety of health problems, including – you guessed it – depression.

Various studies have examined and uncovered a link between sweeteners in beverages and an increased risk of depression, with some highlighting that certain strains have greater effects.

For example, in one study, people who ate a diet high in aspartame experienced more depression and irritable moods. Researchers suggest that this could be because the ingredient affects the balance of chemicals in the brain (such as the “pleasure chemicals” serotonin and dopamine) and increases levels of cortisol, the “stress” hormone.

What should you try instead?

It can be a good idea to cut back on artificial sweeteners or try other unrefined sugar alternatives like honey or stevia. But it’s important to remember that it’s still sugar, so it’s still best to consume it in moderation.

Energy drinks are another quick and easy pick-me-up, and many people sip one of them after a bad night’s sleep or a hard workout at the gym. However, due to their caffeine and sugar content, energy drinks have a significant impact on our physical health, which can also affect our mental state.

For example, in one study, people who didn’t normally drink energy drinks were asked to consume them regularly. All participants experienced a higher level of stress, while men in particular also had increased symptoms of depression.

Although studies have shown that drinking coffee can lower the risk of depression, too much caffeine can cause insomnia, which in turn can worsen symptoms of depression, according to some studies.

What should you try instead?

Try sipping natural, energizing drinks like green tea or nibbling on a few squares of dark chocolate.

Many grilled, picnic, and quick meals like sausages, ham slices, corned beef, and jerky are classified as processed meat. While they’re easy to make and easy to take with meals when you don’t feel like cooking, these ingredients have the potential to promote signs of depression.

Countless studies have found a significant association between eating red and processed meat and an increased risk of depression and its symptoms. As with fast food, scientists believe this is due to their levels of trans and saturated fat, which promote higher levels of inflammation in the body.

What should you try instead?

If you don’t want to go without meat in your sandwich entirely, grilled chicken or turkey are healthier. Other ingredients such as tuna, avocado or egg also make for hearty fillings.

If you have depression, you may find that changing your diet can help alleviate or improve symptoms to some extent. Results vary from person to person, however, and diet changes are usually not a substitute for traditional treatments.

If you find that diet changes are doing little or you have persistent and moderate to severe depression, you may need additional help. Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about devising a treatment plan, which may include medication and therapy.

There’s no denying that diet plays a role in treating depression, and keeping a food diary could help identify associations between certain ingredients and your symptoms. You may notice that they are worse the day after a drink with friends or after a full day filled with sweet treats.

In addition to food replacement, you should also consider other ingredients that may help improve symptoms and try to incorporate more of them into your meals if possible.

The Mediterranean diet, which is filled with foods like seafood, healthy fats, and legumes, is known for its various health benefits, including relieving signs of depression. This may be due to the large number of micronutrients known as polyphenols.

Eating foods high in omega-3s (such as oily fish, flax seeds, and nuts) can also be beneficial, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is believed that drinking coffee in moderation can also be helpful.

If you’re on a tight budget, it’s good to know that canned and frozen foods, including canned tuna, water-wrapped salmon, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can also be nutritious options.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a bit more TLC whenever possible – and this approach is possibly one of the easiest (and tastiest) to experiment with.

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