1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Last week we talked about how diet can have a huge impact on our mental health. We incorporated a ton of sweet potato, spinach, cashews and berries into our last meal plan on purpose. These are foods that have nutrients that have been proven to fight symptoms of depression.
For the most part, we understand what foods are good for us and what foods are bad for us. But when we think of these “bad foods” we often think of how bad they are for our physical appearance. But we don’t stop to think about how they might affect our mental health.
Again, let me be clear: Diet can have a huge impact on your mental health.
So while we’re talking about mental health today, let’s talk about some foods that may worsen symptoms of depression and why they should be avoided.
#1. Refined Sugar
Unless you live under a rock, you know that sugar isn’t great for you. But refined sugar has been deemed the “sweetest poison of all”. Refined sugar is basically raw sugar that has been “refined” into the pure white stuff we all have known to love (and hate). When raw sugar is refined, it is depleted of its vitamins and minerals. Such a product is often called “empty calories” because it contains absolutely nothing our body can use. Some even call it poison since it actually leaches vitamins and minerals from our bodies.
Refined sugar causes inflammation in our bodies. Women who consume inflammatory foods such as refined sugar have a 41% increased chance of being diagnosed with depression than those who consume a low inflammatory diet. Inflammation may also affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that are linked to depression.
If you do one thing today, let it be to get this sugar shit out of your house.
You probably aren’t going to like what I’m about to tell you. Alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain that can really mess with your mood. Like refined sugar, it causes inflammation and depletes our nutritional stores especially thiamin and zinc. Low levels of these nutrients have been linked to low mood, irritability and even aggression. Excess alcohol can also interfere with our body’s ability to produce the happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin.
#3. Red Meat
There is a lot of controversy surrounding red meat. High consumption of red meat has been linked to inflammation in the body, which again has been shown to worsen symptoms of depression. We’re not hating on red meat here, we’re just saying everything in moderation.
For many people, gluten can cause inflammation within the body due to an autoimmune response. And as I’ve said again and again, inflammation is linked to depression.
Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and high consumption has been linked to depression. More obviously, caffeine often keeps us awake at night and these sleep disturbances really affect our mood. That crash and headache that we often experience when in caffeine withdrawal - yup, that also really affects our mood. And the last tidbit that I’ll share is that caffeine has been shown to interfere with our body’s ability to produce serotonin (the “happiness” neurotransmitter).
High consumption of aspartame-containing foods has also been linked to depression. Aspartame contains an amino acid called phenylalanine, which may decrease serotonin levels. Aspartame is found in diet soda and artificial sweeteners.
To learn more, check out our related post, 5 Foods That Fight Symptoms of Depression.