Is Your Diet and Daily Eating Routine Causing Depression?
It’s no secret that sticking to a healthy diet and having a daily routine are essential to our everyday functioning and total wellbeing.
Diet is considered an essential component of not only one’s physical wellness but also one’s mental health. In fact, there’s a field of medicine dedicated to it called “nutritional psychiatry.”
There are also studies that have shown the link between dietary intake and a person’s risk of depression.
Having a routine, on the other hand, is considered crucial for improving certain common psychological and mental health conditions. A healthy routine can help us cope with change, form healthy habits, and reduce our stress levels.
Conversely, having a poor diet and destructive eating routine that includes foods that contribute to depression can affect mental health negatively. So, if you’re finding these things to be interfering with your overall sense of wellness, it’s time to explore how an unhealthy diet and daily eating routine could cause depression.
Link between diet and depression
People who are depressed are saddled with negative thoughts and manifest negative behaviors.
When someone is severely distressed – such as after a death in the family or separation from their spouse – their depression can manifest itself through unhealthy eating behaviors: either by not eating or overeating.
Some people go through a period of under-eating and then enter a phase of overeating afterwards. What makes these behaviors particularly destructive is that they can also turn into routine eating patterns that can be difficult to change.
Processed foods and depression
Processed foods are characterized as being high calorie and nutritionally deficient. They are usually high in refined carbs or sugar, salt and saturated fats.
They come in the form of convenience or fast food (e.g. burgers, pizzas, pasta, fried chicken and fries), packaged products like chocolates, candies, cookies, bread, canned fruit, hotdogs, mayonnaise, energy drinks, juices, and so on.
When you consume processed food containing refined sugars, for example, you experience a sudden jolt of energy. Once this feeling wears off, you experience a sugar crash which can leave you feeling tired and grumpy. To eliminate this feeling, you consume processed food again to fulfil the need for instant gratification.
In time, when this becomes habitual, you can develop processed food addiction.
For people suffering from depression, this pattern of eating not only leads to unhealthy weight gain but also worsens their mental health condition. Other health problems caused by junk food include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related disorders.
Can certain foods cause depression?
Other foods to steer away from as they can make you feel depressed include:
- Alcoholic drinks: Excessive alcohol consumption not only impairs the brain’s cognitive capacity but also leads to anxiety and panic attacks. Alcohol also depletes serotonin, making heavy drinkers more prone to depression.
- Caffeine: Too much caffeine increases one’s risk of suffering from poor sleep, anxiety and depression. Adding refined sugar only worsens the effects of caffeine on the body.
- Aspartame: This chemical used in artificial sweeteners is processed by the body and broken down into molecules which, in turn, reduce serotonin levels – thereby impacting mood and making one more prone to depression.
Best foods for depression
What you eat can affect your mood. Consider your gut health, for example. There are microorganisms in the gut (or gut bacteria) that produce different types of neurochemicals which, in turn, play a role in regulating mood and other neurological functions.
So, to elevate your mood or feel better, it’s important to balance gut bacteria by consuming probiotics such as Lactobaccilli and Bifidobacteria present in yogurt, fresh cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, miso and traditional buttermilk.
Other foods that can help with depression include:
- Healthy carbohydrates: Eating the right kind of carbs is a healthier choice when you’re feeling down and out. Instead of consuming sugary snack options or fast food, stick to whole-grain breads, fresh fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods.
- Omega 3-rich foods: Omega-3 are essential for optimal brain function. They’re also known to help with managing depression symptoms. So, try to consume more fish, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil and other omega-3-rich foods.
- Vitamin D: People with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to experience depression-related symptoms, so it makes sense to have your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun. You can also get more vitamin D from tofu, milk and fish.
- Selenium: Some studies have established a link between selenium deficiency and depression. Having the right amount of selenium in your diet can be achieved by consuming foods like lean meats, seafood, nuts, beans and whole grains.
We are what we eat
What the science boils down to is that what we eat every day affects all aspects of our health – including our mental health.
By eating a healthy diet that’s nutritionally balanced and less dependent on the consumption of processed foods, you can reduce your risk of depression – or if you already have it – elevate your mood in a natural and healthy way.
Looking for other ways to beat depression?
Please book a free consultation with us at Evolve Brain. We’re more than happy to help.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.