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December 9, 2009 at 12:38 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Processed Foods Linked to Depression

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

In a fast-paced world where thrift and convenience are king, processed foods are often what's for dinner.

Most of us know that a diet made up of processed foods, including white breads, high-fat dairy products, fried foods, and processed meats can negatively affect our body, but new studies show that they can negatively affect our mood as well. Could this be a factor in the ever growing number of depression sufferers? Researchers at the University College London believe so.

In their study of 3,500 people, they found those who ate a diet high in whole foods had a 26% lower risk of developing depression compared with people who ate an average diet, while those who ate a diet high in processed foods had a 56% higher risk compared with people who ate an average diet.

"This study adds to an existing body of solid research that shows the strong links between what we eat and our mental health, says Dr. Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation. To explain this phenomenon, researchers look at the nutritional facts in both diets.

Processed foods contains high levels of sodium (refined salt), sugar, trans fats, saturated fats, and artificial sugars, colors, and preservatives. All of these are linked to coronary heart disease, and coronary heart disease has been linked to depression. However, it is not only the excess of salt, fat, and artificial ingredients that is to blame. Perhaps even more important is what a processed food diet lacks.

Whole food diets are rich in chromium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, polyunsaturated oils, folate, and antioxidants, all of which support healthy brain function. Try making small changes like choosing whole wheat instead of white bread, nut milk instead of dairy, and fish instead of beef. Swap out crunchy snacks from a box for more fresh fruits and vegetables. Your body and your brain are sure to benefit.


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