Following our last Heart In Motion article on foods that fight depression, it is important to highlight a list of foods that can contribute to depression. Just as neurotransmitter levels can be boosted by certain foods, other foods can deplete them.

  • Sugar – Refined sugar can contribute to mood instability as it can contribute to both inflammation and blood sugar imbalances. Natural sugars like in fruits are balanced out by naturally occurring fiber, so the most important foods to focus on processed foods with added sugars. A lot of foods that are seen as healthy contain more added sugar than you might think like yogurt, granola bars, trail mix and energy bars. Whole foods are always best, but when looking for lower sugar products, aim for ones with no artificial sweetener as well as 5 grams of sugar or less.
  • Refined Carbohydrates – Refined carbohydrates that are made into products are inflammatory to the gut (which can affect neurotransmitter production) as well as contribute to blood sugar fluctuations. A diet high in refined carbohydrates requires more b vitamins to digest/process which creates a greater need and more potential for deficiency. Vitamin b deficiency has been found more common in those who struggle with depression.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a depressant. Even though alcohol can temporarily make you feel a sense of lifted depression, it can lead to impaired judgment and reaction time as well as inflammation from excess sugar. Alcohol and mood challenges do not mix well.

One final thought about sugar, the common denominator of all 3 of these foods that can contribute to chemical imbalances that contribute to depression is that serotonin imbalances lead to sugar cravings. Because sugary/high starch foods temporarily boost serotonin levels, those who are depressed commonly crave those foods to incite temporary feel good feelings. Though it may be tempting to reach for those foods, the crash after eating them is often worse than the feelings before.

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  • If you are struggling with depression, first seek medical intervention. Read the list above and work to replace any of these foods you might commonly eat for better management of the vitamins and gut health that lead to optimum neurotransmitter function and feelings of wellbeing.