3 Diet Myths That Cause Depression
Is your diet causing your depression?
While depression is a multi-faceted issue when treating depression we need to take a holistic approach. Our mind and body are one in the same, though for some reason often treated separately.
Our thoughts affect the health of our body via hormones and other chemical stimuli. Conversely how we treat our bodies affects our emotions and thought patterns.
What we put in is what we get out!
With that in mind, we need to think more carefully about what we are eating if we want to have a healthier, happier brain and life. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mixed messages when it comes to diet and many of the supposed 'healthy' choices may be a big contributing factor to your or your loved one's struggles with depression.
I am a bit OCD when it comes to diet research. As someone who has long struggled with weight image issues and struggles to keep a steady weight, this was initially inspired to find a balance between my love of good food and be as skinny as possible. But, my research quickly became more focused on how to improve my mindset and have more energy, as well as maintaining a stable, healthy weight.
In my research, I have unsurprisingly come across several diet myths that have been drummed into us as 'healthy' over the last 75+ years that are actually extremely damaging to our health.
A lot of the foods on this list are bad for us because they cause inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is one of those buzzwords you have probably heard popping up all over the place recently, and for good reason!
Inflammation is linked to being either a cause or effect of many diseases, including depression!
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our bodies natural response to injury. It helps our bodies to heal wounds. For example, when we get a cut or a mosquito bite our bodies send extra blood and white blood cells to the injury which causes swelling and redness to help prevent foreign matter, like dirt or bacteria, getting in. In this case, inflammation is temporary and it's good. It helps keep us healthy.
Long-term and repeated inflammation is where problems arise. This is when it can damage our tissues.
Think of how uncomfortable it is when you do get a mosquito bite and it gets swollen, sore and a bit itchy. It sucks right? Now imagine that because of something you are eating your heart, brain, muscles and intestines are constantly experiencing that same uncomfortable swelling.
You might not be able to pinpoint the exact spot where the swelling is happening like you can with a mosquito bite, but you're probably not going to feel very good, are you? Possibly without even knowing why.
This is exactly the problem with foods that cause inflammation. Maybe you eat these foods all the time and your body is already inflamed but you don't have a non-inflamed baseline to compare it to.
Maybe it is one food that causes you problems but it is hard to pinpoint because of the delayed effects.
Science is catching up and luckily the foods on this list that cause inflammation are becoming more widely known.
While changing your diet may not be the end-all solution to your depression, it will certainly help you be healthier, feel more energized and help your brain be happier. Surely it is no coincidence that over the last 75 years in western society we have seen both a steady rise in depression and a steady decline in the quality of our diets.
Remember, what we put in is what we get out!
I have been travelling North America for over two months now and I have been regularly horrified by the added sugars and carbohydrates in manufactured foods. We have this problem at home in New Zealand but not to the same extent. I make a habit of reading the labels of foods before I buy them and at least at home I can usually understand 95% of the ingredients and be able to relate them to actual foods. This is not the case in North America. The amount of strange chemical components boggles my mind. What is everyone eating?
Because of this I typically avoid pre-packed foods. It is nice sometimes a hassle to have to make everything from scratch in hostels while you are travelling, however.
Diet Myth #1: Fat is BAD
WRONG!! This is the worst one. Fat is really good for us. Unfortunately, this is the main one we have been bombarded for years and still are.
Here is a quick biology lesson so you can understand why:
All the cells in your body are made up of lipids (AKA fats) and proteins. Lipids are important for storing and supplying energy to your body. Fat is more energy-rich than carbohydrates. Lipids also make up the outer layer of your cells and insulate your nerve fibres.
In a nutshell; fat is super important for your body to work properly, have energy and stay alive!
Fat also tastes good! Think of avocados, olive oil, coconuts, bacon, dairy, nuts. The good news is you can stop buying 'healthy' low-fat foods YAY! To make them taste good low-fat foods often also contain loads of sugar which is another big inflammation culprit.
Paleo and Keto diets are a fantastic place to start when hunting for high-fat recipes. Ketones are produced by our livers from fat sources and are the best energy resource for our brain and heart muscles.
Now, while we are talking about fat some are not so good. Avoid vegetable oils, sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil. These are produced via a high heat process and are very bad for you. Consume cold press oils like avocado, coconut and olive oil.
Diet Myth #2: Carbohydrates are good
WRONG!! Carbohydrates are highly debated at the moment with paleo and ketogenic diets shredding them and becoming more popular. These diets focus on consuming a more natural human diet pre-grain agriculture.
When I eat an exclusively ketogenic diet I feel a lot healthier, my brain feels clearer, my moods are more stable and I don't get hunger cravings as much.
Did you know that the classic food pyramid with carbohydrates at the bottom that we were all taught at school was created by American Politicians and not health professionals!
Carbohydrates are an undeniably delicious source of inflammation. However, when you cut them out you stop craving them!
Trailer FED UP (2014):
Full Documentary of Fed Up (2014):
Diet Myth #3: It says low sugar on the packet and I bought it at a health food store so it must be good for me.
WRONG (Maybe...). Check the ingredients! As someone focused on a low sugar, low carbohydrate diet I often read package ingredients, especially in North America.
I have noticed that often they will say sugar-free but instead, they contain fructose, corn syrup, sucralose, dextrose, sucrose, aspartame or some other unimaginable sugar source. These are all still inflammatory sugars!
There are some healthy natural sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia. Remember a little sugar is OK! Sugar is produced naturally in fruits. You want to have fruits and natural sugars as an occasional sweet treat, not the main dish. Remember inflammation is bad when it is long-term and repeated. A chocolate laden croissant every once in a while is unlikely to cause any major long-term damage. But eating them for breakfast every day might be a different story.
If you are a bit of a sugar addict look for xylitol and stevia sweetners and start working your way up to 70%+ cocoa chocolate. Once you go dark chocolate, you never go back.
These are the main three diet myths that need to be shouted in the streets! Having a healthy diet can be both very simple and very difficult.
If you are struggling with depression or just simply feel sluggish and unhealthy start by increasing the number of vegetables and healthy fats in your diet and reducing your sugar and carbohydrate intake.
Start getting in the habit of reading ingredients on packaged foods. You will be surprised how often they sneak in sugar and carbohydrates.
This video is by Dr. Georgia Ede a psychiatrist who is an expert in ketogenic and pre-agricultural diets, food sensitivities and college mental health. She discusses how the decline in our diets (AKA increases in carbohydrates, sugar and decline in healthy fats) over the last 75 years is linked to our decline in mental health.
Do these seem like a lot of diet changes for you?
Throw away unhealthy foods. If they are in the kitchen they are going to tempt you. The best way I have found to start changing your diet for good is to make one change at a time.
- Replace your morning toast or cereal with an egg.
- Change your 50% chocolate to 55-60%.
- Start using zoodles (vegetables in noodle form) instead of noodles.
- Replace vegetable oils with a healthy oil such as avocado, coconut or olive oil.
- Start pouring your favourite oil on everything.
- Snack on almonds instead of potato chips.
Keep going until you reach your healthy diet goals.
It's easier to make small sustainable changes than set off on one go. Think of it as a withdrawal period. You want to change your diet for good rather than smash out another crash diet and then fail. Sugar is addictive!
Beware of the withdrawal and understand that you may feel worse before you feel better. Some people get flu-like symptoms when they are first adapting to a ketogenic diet. But push through. this is only temporary.
Have you found any foods that really help boost your mood and energy levels? Or any depression food culprits? I would love to hear your story. Please comment below.
Do you want to beat depression and live a happier life?
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