Much research has been done on the impact the foods we consume has on our health. Sugar, gluten, processed foods and chocolate are among few well-disguised culprits in food that affect our mood without us knowing. Especially when we work really long days, the food we eat is not necessarily top priority most times (shocking, but #truestory). Lunch and snacks are heavily dependent on whatever is available at the time and place of need. This convenience-based eating habit can work wonders in not just sending our health haywire, but our moods, too. It’s now a commonly known fact that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the body that make us happy. But do all the foods we eat have the same effect? According to research, not really.
The burgers and fries we consume on a regular basis (well, some of us) may just be the reason why we cannot see past our own troubles. In 2011, a study was conducted in Spain on the effects of fast food on depression. It was found that after prolonged consumption of fast food (the study was conducted over a period of two to six years), the group of individuals who had a higher intake of fast food reported higher cases of depression compared to the control group. The study also included commercially baked goods, such as pastries, cakes, and doughnuts. It was found that the sugar used in these products impacted the mood of consumers significantly, making them vulnerable to self-deprecating or negative thoughts.
Along with fast food, processed food has also been found to cause depression when consumed regularly, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2009. As compared to individuals who ate whole foods, comprising of fruits, vegetables, and fresh meat, the people who ate processed foods that were canned or frozen and in a packet displayed frequent and more obvious signs of depression. Process foods include popular items like nuggets, frozen burger patties, and hot dogs, which are top selling items in many hypermarkets. While this food may be convenient, it’s also important to note that we don’t really know the kinds of preservatives and ingredients that go into making them. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver once famously battled with processed-food producers through his television show, showing what exactly goes into making frozen chicken nuggets (it wasn’t pretty).
When consuming food that is high in sugar, we are inevitably creating a roller coaster in our blood sugar levels, introducing sudden elevations when we consume the food and drops when the sugar is used up and we do not replenish the sugar content instantly. Research has found that this can have a negative impact on our moods, causing ups and downs in how we’re feeling throughout the day The effects of sugar is accentuated in individuals who have a pre-existing mental disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar. Unsurprisingly, countries that have a high consumption of sugar report more cases of depression compared to other countries.
Trans and Saturated Fats
Trans and saturated fats are highly debated members of the fat family. Many years ago, trans fat was actually considered healthy, and the food was generally prepared with this type of fat. However, researchers have now found the link between trans or saturated fat and depression to be undeniable. Individuals who added more unsaturated fats to their diet showed lesser signs of depression or mental illness, while those who consumed a regular diet of all types of fats displayed more signs of mood swings and extremes. While trans and saturated fats are both harmful to your physical and mental health, it will do well to stay away from trans fat altogether.
In a study published by PLOS ONE, it was found that the consumption of trans fats can increase the risk of depression in an individual by up to 48%. Along with cardiovascular disease, mental health also took a huge hit thanks to trans fats. Some argue that the chemical composition of oils changes while cooking and therefore some of our food might contain some traces of trans fat. However, it is also essential to bear in mind that fats containing unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola, are better alternatives to cooking and the formation of any kind of unhealthy chemical composition in the cooking oil can be avoided. Another factor to remember when purchasing oils is to ensure its organic nature, ensuring that the fruits or flowers behind the oils have been responsibly farmed and not loaded with pesticides.
A Quick Fat Fact Round Up
All fats provide calories per gram to your daily diet, so it’s important to consume fats with caution. Although not always possible, reading the labels that break down the fat composition in the food we buy can go a long way in helping us understand what we’re doing to our body. Here’s a summary of what you need to know about the various fats!
These are fats that are artery-clogging in nature. This naturally occurring group of fats cause high-blood pressure and increase body cholesterol. It can be found in animal fats, such as butter and lard. While saturated fats aren’t unavoidable, they must be consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that out of 2000 calories a day, only 120 should be from saturated fats (that’s 13 grams).
Belonging to the group of fats that actually help you, polyunsaturated fats is typically liquid at room temperature and tends to solidify when chilled, such as olive oil. This fat helps the cells in your body regenerate and provides your immune system with antioxidants. It also lowers bad cholesterol in the body, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Examples of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, sunflower and corn oil, as well as the fats from salmon and trout.
Similar to polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats are helpful to your body. Rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, this group of fats also help to reduce risks of high cholesterol and stroke. Primarily found in canola and olive oil, monounsaturated fats are also present in most nuts and seeds, as well as the trending avocado!
Note: This article originally appeared in Cravings!, the quarterly free food magazine. Cravings! can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play Store for free.