The Link Between Depression and Diet

Poor diet is one of the common causes of depression. Like us, food is made of many chemicals organically that give that particular food distinct qualities. There is a reason why an orange is orange (beta carotene) and why mint settles your stomach (menthol). When the unique chemicals that compromise the foods we eat are digested in our body, the chemicals from the foods react to the chemicals that are present inside of us.

When they combine they can do a litany of different things. It all depends on the food that you eat. A diet that contains a variety of colors from the rainbow, and is free of additives, artificial colors, and synthetic sweeteners will have more positive chemical reactions inside of our bodies.

However, there are a lot of foods that are cheap and easily assessable in the grocery store that promote bad chemical reactions. These reactions negatively impact blood sugar levels and have a harmful effect on our moods. In subsequent chapters, we have covered top foods for preventing and treating depression. We have also named sources of foods that can give you the right nutrition your mind and body need to stay healthy at all times. For now, here’s a list of foods that you should stay away from:


Refining sugar is a part of the sugar manufacturing process where raw sugar is stripped away of impurities and color. To do this, the raw sugar is mixed with a heavy syrup and essentially squeezed out to rid the substance of any raw crystals.

From there, this man-made sugar is treated with a few other chemicals to make the white table sugar we see today.


Artificial sweeteners have been getting a lot of attention lately as Pepsi® announced in 2015 they were going to remove the artificial sweetener, aspartame, from their Diet Pepsi product. Asapartame is a common ingredient in almost every sweetener known to man, including NutraSweet® and Equal®.

Amongst declining sales at the time, Pepsi’s North American CEO, Al Carey, stated at an investor’s call that,

“Diet drinks were a drag on the business. And the one thing we see from consumers is a complaint about aspartame.”

Pepsi replaced the aspartame with another artificial sweetener called, sucralose, the main ingredient in Splenda®. After Diet Pepsi sales continue to plummet due to its rabid fan base not acquiring a liking to its aspartame-free taste, Pepsi announced it would re-introduce the artificial sweetener.


Food coloring and artificial sweeteners kind of go hand-in-hand with one another. Usually when you see one in the ingredient’s list, the other is not that far around the corner. As a matter of fact, most of the common foods listed above will have an artificial food color (AFC) added to it.

The FDA conducted a placebo-based group study of hyperactive children given foods that were made with artificial food coloring (AFC). Their studies found,

“Certain subgroups of children with problem behaviors that may or may not be related to ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and, possibly, certain children from the general population without particular behavioral problems, may exhibit a unique intolerance to AFC resulting in typically small to moderate behavioral changes which may not necessarily be characteristic of ADHD syndrome.”

Although this conclusion does not link food dyes to ADHD syndrome directly, the study does acknowledge an increased sense of hyperactivity when the children ate the foods with AFC.

Depression and ADHD, or ADHD-like behaviors usually work together. A lot of times, someone’s depression causes certain symptoms of ADHD such as restlessness and loss of concentration. Adding AFCs may not necessarily cause ADHD and depression, but they are triggering other chemicals in the body that stir up symptoms of both of these illnesses.


A lot of what is available on the market is processed some way, somehow. Not all processed foods are bad for you. According to Dietician, Sian Porter,

“Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria.”

Another form of healthy processing is how fruits and vegetables are distributed. Frozen fruits and vegetables come with most of their vitamins preserved from the extreme cold. Canned vegetables are convenient, last longer, and are most cost-efficient than fresh produce. The problem is that they also lack all the vitamins of a fresh whole food. If you do buy tinned produce, be sure to buy it without any added salt. It should already have enough preservatives.

However, there are bad processed foods. A lot of them have added salt, sugar, and fat. This all comes along with extra calories. A lot processed meats are smoked, cured, or artificial flavors are added to prolong its freshness. Studies have found an indication that there is a, “statistical correlation between the increased occurrence of cancer in the intestinal tract and the frequent intake of smoked foods.


Hydrogenating oils is a form of preservation. It’s intent it to increase shelf-life by adding hydrogen to the oils. However, in this process trans fat is created. Numerous studies have linked trans fat with not only obesity, but depression as well.

That is not to say all fats and oils are bad for us. We will get into that a little deeper later on. Just be sure to buy pure and organic oils like olive, avocado, and coconut.


Salt is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, a study showed that rats who were low on sodium chloride (or table salt, as we know it as) shied away from playing and activities. That is how scientists measure the rat’s enjoyment levels. Therefore, if the rats lacking sodium means lacking energy, then the same can probably be said for human beings.

However, there is always too much of a good thing. The same rings true for sodium. Excess sodium leads to fluid retention among the lower extremities. This leads to your body feeling a sense of fatigue, disrupting your immune system and finally, contributing to depression. The FDA suggests limiting your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. That is far less than the 3,4000 humans typically consume. Here are a bunch of foods that are high in sodium. Be sure to check the labels to stay within the daily recommended intake.


Chocolate, tea, espresso, coffee, energy drinks…there are many ways to get your caffeine fix on a daily basis. Sure, it’s great for a quick pick-me-up, but the lasting side effects are far more severe.

A study conducted among healthy college students saw moderate to high coffee drinkers exhibit more depressive behavior than the students who consumed little to no caffeine. The studies also concluded that students who consumed more caffeine actually got lower academic scores as well.
Too much caffeine, which much of America is guilty of, can lead to jitteriness, irritability, and long, sleepless nights.


Alcohol is an easy crutch to deal with all the things that we don’t want to. We drink to loosen up, have a good time, and let go of all the burdens that bother you throughout the door. The dependency on alcohol to be the save-all in life is what can lead you down an even more destructive, depressing path.
Alcohol in itself is a depressant. Some call it a “downer.”

One-third of people with depression also suffer from alcohol abuse. Teens who suffer from depression are also twice as likely to start forming the habit of drinking than their peers who do not suffer from the illness.

Excess drinking also leads to bad decisions. This traces back to those life events we spoke about earlier. Drinking to the point of blackout can lead to an arrest, to driving your car and crashing it, killing yourself or someone else, sleeping with someone you wouldn’t have otherwise, losing your job, getting kicked out of your house, among a bunch of other situations. Anyone of those dramatic circumstances that you would not do sober can become the trigger to a lifetime of crippling depression.

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