There is the old saying that “you are what you eat”, and it studies have shown that the food we eat may have effects on our mental state as well.
If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, you may already be seeing a therapist. You may be taking medication to deal with chemical imbalances in your brain.
But have you taken a close look at what you eat on a regular basis? Perhaps what you are eating isn’t helping your depression at all.
Why don’t we take a look at food to avoid if you have depression?
With the busy lives we lead, it’s very easy to buy ready-made food and just pop the container in the microwave. Cold cuts, processed meat, processed cheese, and even white bread can contribute to depressive feelings. This is because they give you an insulin boost, which temporarily makes you feel better, and then when the crash comes, you’ll feel worse. Fatigue, irritation, and melancholy follow.
Alternatives: fresh meat, vegetables, and whole grains
This is a bummer, especially if you’re like me who always starts the day with a cup of coffee and goes through several cups more during the day.
The problem with caffeine is that it has a negative effect on sleeping patterns, especially if taken late in the afternoon. It can lead to agitation and even palpitations, obviously contributing to anxiety.
Take note that caffeine is not limited to coffee. Energy drinks are even worse.
Alternatives: decaf, green tea, and other herbal teas
Another surprising “bad” food for depression is soy. I love soy milk and other soy-derived products. The problem with soy is that it is a hormone (I didn’t know that!) which can disrupt the normal function of the thyroid, which releases antidepressant hormones.
It is important to note, however, that other studies haven’t found a direct link between soy and depression. The best thing to do, then, is to moderate your soy intake, especially when you’re feeling blue.
Certain fats are good for the health, but trans fat can limit blood flow to the brain, contributing to depression. Food with trans fat includes ready-made baked goods, chips, and fried food (fried chicken!).
Alternatives: researchers are still unclear as to what substitutes are best, but they’re looking at butter, lard, and saturated vegetable oils like palm and corn oil. You can also get natural fat from fish and cold-pressed nut and seed oils.
Just like processed food, refined sugar messes with our endocrine glands, which balances hormones. Consuming refined sugar drains endocrine glands, which leads to anxiety and depression. It also gives you a sugar high then the crash follows…and you know what happens next.
Alternatives: lessen refined sugar intake; use raw sugar (cane sugar, for example); spices like cinnamon gives a sweet flavor, too
If you have to avoid refined sugar, aren’t artificial sweeteners a better alternative?
They contain aspartame, which has long been established as a blocker to serotonin, which regulates mood. Food with aspartame includes “low calorie” drinks, NutraSweet, and Equal.
Alternatives: honey, stevia
On another note, eating too little isn’t good for depression either. While some people turn to “comfort eating” when depressed (tub of ice cream while watching TV!), there are those who eat too little – either intentionally (dieting) or unconsciously (no appetite).
More than analyzing what you eat, also take a look at how much you eat. If you don’t eat enough, you’ll probably end up not getting enough nutrients, which in turn will worsen your depression.