Despite the fact that I’m always harping on about processed foods and how bad they are for you, it seems some of my regular readers still don’t get it. I get comments all the time that I should ease up on processed food bashing, that “everybody eats it” and that it’s not that bad. The thing is, it is that bad.
How bad? Well, a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that eating processed foods actually leads to depression in middle age. Eating processed foods filled with chemical additives, refined grains and sugars, processed meats and trans fats can bring you down. Who’d have thought?
Eating a whole food diet, on the other hand, was found to prevent the onset of depressive symptoms.
While previous studies focused on particular nutrients and their link to depression, this is the first to look at overall diet trends and mood disorder. The researchers examined data from 3,486 participants over five years. Subjects were separated into two groups based on their eating habits – the whole food group (eating vegetables, fruits and fish) and the processed food group (eating sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products) – and each were asked to fill out a depression questionnaire.
“Our results suggest that consuming fruits, vegetables and fish may afford protection against the onset of depressive symptoms, whereas a diet rich in processed meat, sweetened desserts, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products would increase people’s vulnerability,” said the study’s authors.
The associations between diet and the symptoms of depression remained even after controls for other healthy lifestyle indicators were instituted, like refraining from smoking, increased physical exercise and a healthy body mass.
The researchers had a few possible explanations for why this trend was observed. They felt the high level of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables could have a protective effect, given that previous studies have demonstrated the link between higher antioxidant levels and a lowered depression risk.
Also, the researchers found that the whole foods group was eating quite a bit of fish. The long-chain polyunsaturated fats found in fish, DHA and EPA in particular, are major components of neurons in the brain.
Variety is another explanation given by the researchers. They speculate that “the combined effect of consuming nutrients from lots of different types of food – rather than the effect of one single nutrient” could explain why the whole foods group weren’t as susceptible to depression.
I can put it even simpler: If you give the body what it needs to thrive and don’t force anything on it that is harmful, it thrives. It really is as simple as that. Processed foods contain harmful ingredients that interfere with the normal processes of the body. If you eat them, something is going to go wrong (like depression). Whole foods have the raw materials our bodies need to function; raw materials which are lacking in refined foods. Avoid whole foods and you avoid these nutrients. Avoid nutrients and your body won’t function; not at top form, anyway.
It would be quite interesting to see this type of study done for other diseases and disorders; whole foods versus processed foods for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, MS or even cancer. We’re really getting down to the nitty-gritty here, folks. The science is catching up to common sense. You are what you eat – here’s the proof.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto. Doug specializes in private in-home holistic cooking lessons.
In this Modern day world, we find many people are suffering from depression due to various reasons. Depression is a mental illness that changes a person outlook towards life. People going through depression witness changes in their thinking pattern, feel and the way the react to things occurring around them.
I do agree, it all depends on what you eat, so to speak. Today we are submerged in food activities that are not at all beneficial to our health. Further more, we hear of my deliberate unhygienic food being made and popularize, that is getting consumed daily and have become our regular consumption.
I was having the fast-food/processed food addiction this past winter because I let myself think it was ok once in a while, which led to more often than not. I ended up feeling depressed all the time, and I would always want more of the bad foods because it helped my mood while I was eating, but then made me extremely depressed about myself afterwards.
Now that I am off processed foods for good, I feel amazing, and I don’t have the bloating and bad gas that I had from eating processed foods all of the time. THEY ARE ADDICTIVE! I treat it like any other addiction (drugs, alcohol)…it’s gotta go!