I've talked many times about the dangers of processed foods, specifically in my post called "The Problem with Processed Foods." And I've also discussed in my "Little Pink Houses" post that when I was living in rural North Carolina, I figured out that many of the poor folks there were obese because the foods they had access too—fast food and the processed foods that are so readily available and affordable at Wal-Mart—were so bad for them. It wasn't necessarily that they were eating more as much as they were eating worse.
And this week there is new evidence to prove how bad processed foods really are. As it turns out, processed foods don't just make us obese, they also make us depressed. This is according to a study released Monday that was done by researchers at University College London and published by the British Journal of Psychiatry. And—as you probably guessed—the study also shows that whole foods like fruit, vegetables, and fish help to ward off depression because of their antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and variety of nutrients. In fact, the study showed that "those who ate the whole foods had a 26% lower risk of depression" while people who ate more processed foods were 58% more likely to be depressed.
Of course, this is incredibly ironic since the first thing most of us do when we're depressed or tired is reach for the junk food—whether it's Cheetos to feed our emotions or Rice-a-Roni to feed our families, we often fall back on processed foods to get us through the hard times. And now they're telling us that doing so starts a vicious cycle: we eat bad foods because we're depressed, and they, in turn, make us more depressed.
Thanks a lot, London researchers! Now what are we supposed to do?
I guess the only thing we can do is make sure we have plenty of non-processed foods around the house to help us get through the tough times. I'm not saying we can't ever reach for comfort foods; I'm just saying don't do it all the time—I think limiting processed foods to once a week is a good goal—and other times use whole foods to also satisfy those cravings. Foods like real cheese and whole wheat crackers, mangoes and watermelon, homemade wheat bread, frozen bananas dipped in real chocolate, berries, homemade guacamole, dried fruit, almonds and cashews, yogurt, vegetables with cottage cheese dip. That kind of thing. I go out of my way to keep that kind of stuff around the house. And even though I wish I had a bag of potato chips every time I open the pantry, I'm glad to see that most of the time, all I can find is a big jar of walnuts. If I can do it, I know you can too.