You already know that you are what you eat. But what you may not know is that your emotions can influence what you eat and this can alter your mental health. Here are some of the foods that have been repeatedly linked with doing more damage to your psyche
In a study published by the journal Diabetologia, researchers found that when blood glucose levels are elevated, levels of a protein that encourages the growth of neurons and synapses drops. This means the simple act of eating sugar makes your brain work at a suboptimal level—and the more you do it, the greater your risk of depression and the greater your risk of diabetes and dementia, too.
2. Artificial sweeteners
Don’t think that just because sugar is out, you can humour your sweet tooth without elevating your risk of depression by taking artificial sweeteners.
Aspartame, the common (and dangerous) ingredient that’s found in products such as diet soda, blocks the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This can cause all manner of neuro maladies including headaches, insomnia, changes in mood—and yes, depression.
Coffee is like jet fuel for an anxious brain. It’s one of the highest concentrated dietary sources of caffeine, and research shows that people with social anxiety are particularly sensitive to feeling nervous side effects from just small amounts of the stimulant.
Caffeine can also blunt the absorption of key mood-balancing nutrients such as vitamin D and B. When weaning off the jumpy stuff, naturally decaffeinated herbals teas, especially chamomile, can be a great alternative to coffee and may also provide meaningful antianxiety and antidepressant activity, research suggests.
4. Deep-fried food
Craving for fried chicken and French fries? Well, they cause trouble to your body for a variety of reasons and can wreak havoc on your weight. But there’s more: They’re also linked to depression. See, deep-frying is usually done in partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation is a process that turns vegetable oil into a more solid form, which makes it a more shelf-stable product.
Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression. Saturated fats can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain—and optimal brain function is what you want, if you’re trying to stave off the blues.
5. Fruit Juice
The fibre in whole fruit fills you up and slows down how your blood takes in energy. Without that fibre, you just drinking nutritious sugar-water that can quickly hype you up and bring you down just as fast. That can leave you hungry and angry, which won’t help your anxiety and depression. Eat your fruit whole. When you’re thirsty, drink water.
You might think that a glass of wine or a couple of cocktails while out with friends will help cheer you up when you’re feeling down. But this may temporarily help to calm an anxious mind. Research suggests the happy hour strategy may backfire long term.
People with anxiety disorders who self-medicate with alcohol or drugs were up to four times more likely to develop a dependency problem within three years than a group who skipped on self-medicating, according to a study in Alcohol Research Current Reviews.
7. Processed pumpkin seeds
You’ve probably heard that pumpkin seeds are a pretty healthy snack. And they are, but if you’ve been struggling with depression, you might want to hold off consuming them on a regular basis. They have an outer coating of potassium bromate, which can interfere with your thyroid’s iodine absorption. Since your thyroid health is crucial to mood regulation, and it needs iodine to function optimally, that’s bad news.
Gluten is the sticking point for many anxious people, especially patients with celiac disease—among whom anxiety traits are common, and can disappear when gluten is removed. But even folks with milder allergies can find the glue-like starch triggering.
9. High sodium foods
Experts say extra salt can totally futz with your emotions because the extra sodium in these products can disrupt aspects of your neurological system. Not only can this directly contribute to depression, but it can also monkey with your immune system response and cause fatigue.
An overtaxed body is a way to invite disruption to your emotional state. And, of course, an excess of salt also leads to fluid retention and bloating.
A number of studies have shown that casein, a protein found in dairy products, can drive inflammation. Casein has been linked to several psychiatric conditions, ranging from schizophrenia to depression.