Finding Joy Through Eating Well
Go through the list of feel good foods that people turn to when they are depressed or just feeling blue, and just about every single one of those foods will include high counts of sugar and carbohydrates.
Even supposedly healthy options high in sugar and carbohydrates can cause tremendous problems, but these problems aren’t merely at the waistline.
Several studies have confirmed that increased sugar consumption is linked to chronic depression and other mental illnesses because of the rollercoaster it sends the body on while providing very little in the way of nutrients.
A Serious Problem
At first, psychologists thought that fudge cheesecake and other common comfort foods were nothing more than comfort mechanisms. While not the best response to depression or sadness, they believed that they were at least harmless when consumed in moderation.
However, several shocking studies revealed precisely the opposite. One of the largest published in the British Journal of Psychiatry revealed that individuals who consumed primarily processed foods were 58% more likely to become depressed.
Additional research revealed that the high consumption of sugar led to decreases and subversions of chromium and other vital minerals. Instead of making it more likely that you’ll feel better, that bowl of ice cream and slice of cake is more inclined to make you feel worse.
Surprisingly, the solution to decreasing depression and to even finding joy is in continuing to exercise restraint when it comes to sugar and the like. If you’re like most people, once you binge on sugar, you feel worn out, discouraged, and disgusting. This is part of the chemical response in your body.
The feel good sensations last only as long as your tastebuds are engaged. Once the food is swallowed, you probably regret it.
Eating foods like spinach, cheese, turkey, salmon, and other similar foods, on the other hand, promotes overall mental and physical health. They do not create the same spikes in blood sugar nor do they interfere with your body’s ability to process nutrients.
Web MD recommends foods rich in antioxidants for the greatest reduction of depression and greatest increase in mood. These include foods that are rich in beta carotene like broccoli, collard greens, spinach, and sweet potatoes. They also include foods that are high in Vitamin C like peppers and tomatoes.
They are also foods that are high in Vitamin E like nuts and seeds. Foods rich in protein are also rich in amino acids called tyrosines. These increase your levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, making it easier for you to concentrate and providing an overall feel good sensation.
The trick with these foods though is to not go the fad diet route of severely restricting your consumption. It’s not uncommon for people to have oral fixations and desperately want something to eat when life feels bad.
By opting for a well prepared entrée with spinach and chicken or fresh grilled hamburger patties with dill pickles and cheddar cheese with a side of broccoli, you’ll be doing far more for your body than if you indulged in chocolate cake.
A common excuse when people are feeling down is that they deserve a little indulgence. Ask yourself though whether you really deserve to feel more depressed, worn out, irritable, and weepy. Do you really deserve to have inflammation and weight gain? Is that really the appropriate response when you’re already feeling down about yourself?
When you choose to eat healthy even when you’re depressed, you give yourself plenty of reasons to be joyful. At a chemical level, you aren’t doing anything that interferes with your body’s ability to cope, and at the same time, you are providing your body with the nutrients it needs. At an emotional level, you are retaining your strength of choice and making the decision you know will make you happier.
Therese J. Borchard, “Why Sugar is Dangerous to Depression,” World of Psychology, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/07/13/why-sugar-is-dangerous-to-depression/ (2011).
“Depression and Diet,” Web MD, http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery.