Anxiety and depression might be fueled by those ultra-processed munchies, a fresh study reveals. Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine whizzes found a link between gorging on junk food and an uptick in unpleasant mental health symptoms.

“Ultra-processed” is just a fancy term for foods that are all set to devour straight from their packaging. Convenient and wallet-friendly, these instant treats pack unhealthy cocktails of oils, fats, sugars, starch, and protein isolates. It doesn’t stop there because they are also chock-full of flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other aesthetic additives. But nutrition? Not so much.

Unfortunately, food that is tasty and looks good enough to eat, is often not. Sodas, fast food, potato chips, candies, sugar-stuffed pastries, and processed meats like burgers and sausages are the usual suspects.

Sure, some previous studies hinted at a connection between ultra-processed food and depression. But few probed into the total count of mental health challenges people experience from regularly bingeing on convenience foods.

Junk Food Binge Equals More “Anxious” Days

A recent study revealed that people who consumed an unhealthy ratio of junk food to healthy food in the US reported more “mentally unhealthy days” and “anxious days” compared to their counterparts who steered clear of such foods.

Shockingly, over 70% of packaged foods in the US are ultra-processed and makeup about 60% of all calories Americans consume. The sheer scale of this phenomenon raises public health concerns. It’s clear that the challenge to escape the temptation of fast, convenient food that is nutritionally bankrupt is very real.

Unfortunately, Americans’ addiction to junk food may also be having a negative impact on their mental health.

Stress Munching: A Downward Spiral

Enter emotional eating. When you’re down in the dumps or feeling lonely, grabbing comfort food seems like a quick fix. But this coping mechanism can lead to unwanted weight gain and, eventually, more embarrassment and guilt. It’s a never-ending cycle that can be challenging to escape.

So, What’s the Best Diet for a Happy Mind?

What you snack on can alleviate or aggravate anxiety and depression symptoms. A diet brimming with high-quality, nutrient-dense foods – think vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – may nourish your brain and shield it from oxidative stress.

Dietitians generally suggest:

  • A smorgasbord of plants, featuring vibrant fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy

This eating plan, often dubbed the Mediterranean diet, has been linked to a 25% to 35% lower risk of depression. Whole, unrefined foods loaded with protein, healthy fat, and fiber helps stabilize blood sugar after meals, ultimately lifting your mood.

While a wholesome diet won’t directly cure depression, it can surely bolster your overall mental wellness. So, why not give it a try?

Your mental health is critical for leading a healthier and happier life. If you have been struggling with depression or anxiety, know that help is available.

Book a complimentary session and find out how you can start making positive changes to your diet and outlook on life today. For more information visit this page: Depression Treatment