The more fast food you eat, the greater your risk of developing depression, according to a study recently published in Public Health Nutrition (March, 2012). This study had 9,000 participants and was well-researched by a team in Spain – a large study that we can’t ignore. People who regularly consume fast food have a 40% increase in depression compared to people who do not eat fast food. This correlation was “dose-dependent,” meaning that the people who ate smaller amounts of fast food had a lower percentage increase in depression rates, and the rates of depression increased as the consumption of fast food increased.
Fast food, such as hamburgers and pizza, has been linked to depression in past studies as well. Commercial baked goods were also linked to increased rates of depression in this study.
Why? We don’t know exactly, but there are several good possibilities.
1. The trans-fats and oxidized fats found in these foods could impair neurotransmitter function in the brain.
2. The poor nutrient quality of these foods could be depriving the brain of necessary nutrients.
3. The preservatives and other chemicals in these foods could be detrimental to neurological functioning.
4. The blood sugar “roller coaster” that comes with eating lots of refined carbohydrates could impact the brain.
5. Or all of the above.
We know that foods high in healthy fats, B vitamins, vitamin D, and antioxidants are beneficial to the brain, so it makes sense that if we eat foods that do not have these healthy nutrients brain function would suffer. We also know that foods high in trans and oxidized fats hurt our cardiovascular system, which supplies the blood to the brain.
Regardless of the cause, eating these foods can lead to depression, not to mention heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The food we eat should not be making us sick – it should be nourishing and bring joy, not depression.
So if you rely on fast food and pre-packaged baked goods on a regular basis, how do you stop?
It’s not realistic to think that we can quickly switch from the drive-through to home cooking every day. So here’s what you do.
Start buying better food. While you learn the skills of planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking, you still need to eat. So switch the fast food to something better. Instead of a burger, fries and a soda, go to a good local cafe for a fresh salad, soup or a good quality sandwich. Yes, this will be more expensive, but if you drink water instead of soda that will save you about $3.00, and cutting out the fries or chips saves another few dollars. Yes, it will feel weird at first, but stick with it and you will start to experience the taste of good, high-quality food. And you will start to feel better, I promise. Stop rolling your eyes at me, you will be a convert in a few weeks.
Instead of pre-packaged baked goods, find a local bakery that uses fresh ingredients and buy something there. You don’t need to bake your own bread to be healthy. Try their whole-grain choices, they are usually way better than the pre-packaged stuff. Then go to the grocery store or farm stand and get some fresh fruit for your snacks. You will find that an 80 calorie apple is way more satisfying than that 100-calorie pouch of artificially flavored junk.
Those of you who have been working with me for a while know that you will actually start feeling better. And you deserve to feel healthy and strong. Don’t let anyone, most of all yourself, tell you otherwise.
Next, sign up for my 10-Step Nutrition Foundation program. I designed it so you can get to a healthy diet in 10 weeks, step-by-step. Nothing crazy or weird, nothing you have to go to a specialty store to buy, just good healthy food made easy.
You can do this, one step at a time. Remember, every good food you eat impact your body in a positive way. And there is no such thing as perfect – just the enjoyment of naturally good food.