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Foods That Cause Depression!

What we put into our body effects how we feel in many different ways. Our diet has also been shown to be linked to depression: we can eat certain foods to lower depression like symptoms. Or in this case certain foods we eat can also increase our chance of developing depression

A large part of food causing depression is related to food causing inflammation, which has been shown to increase the chance of one developing depression symptoms. Inflammation is a body’s natural response to a stimuli when it is trying to product itself. At the time the body may respond by damaging its own tissue or releasing toxic compounds in order to protect itself. If this is an acute or short term response that happens on occasion this can be needed. However, if this is chronic or if the body is in a constant state of inflammation long term health problems can develop such as: cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers, or in this cause depression (1). More and more research is constantly coming out that depression is linked to inflammation and that inflammation may be one of the biggest contributor (2). With this in mind it is no surprise that the three foods on this list that are linked to depression are also linked to inflammation.

The beloved deli meat sandwich is something that most Americans reach for as their lunch at work 5 days a week. Even if they do not make it themselves deli meat sandwiches are popular at many different restaurants, coffee shops, or places to get a sandwich on the go. Unfortunately this popular lunch option that contains this processed meat can also have big effects on your health as well as possibly increase symptoms of depression. First it is important to define what process meat is: “processed meat is considered to be any meat which has been modified in order either to improve its taste or to extend its shelf life. Methods of meat processing include salting, curing, fermentation, and smoking. Processed meat is usually composed of pork or beef, but also poultry, while it can also contain offal or meat by-products such as blood. Processed meat products include bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, jerky, hot dog, lunch meat, canned meat and meat-based sauces” (3).

Eating meat that has been processed has been shown to cause an increase in one developing depression like symptoms or being diagnosed with a depression diagnosis (4). Other studies have examined the link between eating processed meat and issues that cause brain activity problems such as dementia as well as a link between dementia and depression (5,6). Processed meats have also been shown to be correlated with heart disease and heart disease and depression also have a high rate of comorbidity (7,8) With this in mind there are many downfalls to consuming processed meats. Instead of eating deli meat sandwich opt for other options such as whole real meat that has been recently cooked and slice it up yourself, your brain and body will thank you!

This next one will be surprising to some as many may consider it a healthy option and that is fruit juice. Fruit juice is very high in sugar and often times is filled with other preservatives to keep it shelf stable. Although the fruit itself of that juice may have many benefits this is usually related to the fiber that is in the fruit that helps break down the sugar found in that food. When consumed as a juice alone it can have just as much sugar as certain sodas (9). Fruit juice in itself has been linked to poor mental health and depression symptoms (10). Sugar itself has been linked to both depression and inflammation as well (11, 12). Instead of fruit juice, better options include adding fruit to water such as lemon defused water or making a smoothie which includes the fiber in the fruit and is a much healthier option!

The next food that has been linked to depression is in a lot of foods in the standard American diet, from: hamburgers, to tacos, cookies, to Chinese food and pasta; that food is refined grains. Refined grains are whole grains that have been milled and processed to remove the parts that contain most of the nutrients in order to make them taste better to the average person and to make them more shelf stable (13). Based on current studies refined grains have been linked to poorer mental health and symptoms of depression (14, 15). This is believed to be caused from the idea that these foods also cause inflammation and also rise the blood glucose levels of a person which is linked to hormone imbalances (16). Instead of reaching for refined grains it will do your body better to reach for whole grain foods when wanting to consume these types of foods or even forgo the idea of eating grains at all and using a lentil based pasta, corn tortillas, or quinoa!


  1. Chen, L., Deng, H., Cui, H., Fang, J., Zuo, Z., Deng, J., Li, Y., Wang, X., & Zhao, L. (2017). Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget, 9(6), 7204-7218.

  2. Maeng, S. H., & Hong, H. (2019). Inflammation as the Potential Basis in Depression. International neurourology journal, 23(Suppl 2), S63-S71.

  3. Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, September 21). Processed meat. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

  4. Nucci D, Fatigoni C, Amerio A, Odone A, Gianfredi V. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(18):6686.

  5. Zhang, H., Greenwood, D. C., Risch, H. A., Bunce, D., Hardie, L. J., & Cade, J. E. (2021). Meat consumption and risk of incident dementia: cohort study of 493,888 UK Biobank participants. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 114(1), 175-184.

  6. Valkanova V, Ebmeier KP, Allan CL. Depression is linked to dementia in older adults. Practitioner. 2017 Jan;261(1800):11-5.

  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Heart disease and depression: A two-way relationship. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

  8. Zhong VW, Van Horn L, Greenland P, et al. Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(4):503–512. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.6969

  9. Barclay, E. (2014, June 9). Fruit juice vs. soda? both beverages pack in sugar, health risks. NPR. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

  10. Freije SL, Senter CC, Avery AD, Hawes SE, Jones-Smith JC. Association Between Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and 100% Fruit Juice With Poor Mental Health Among US Adults in 11 US States and the District of Columbia. Prev Chronic Dis 2021

  11. Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 27;7(1):6287. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7.

  12. Giugliano D, Ceriello A, Esposito K. The effects of diet on inflammation: emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Aug 15;48(4):677-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2006.03.052. Epub 2006 Jul 24.

  13. What's a whole grain? A refined grain? What's a Whole Grain? A Refined Grain? | The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.). Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

  14. Gibson-Smith D, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Visser M, Giltay EJ, Penninx BWJH. Association of food groups with depression and anxiety disorders. Eur J Nutr. 2020 Mar;59(2):767-778. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-01943-4. Epub 2019 Apr 3.

  15. Sadeghi O, Hassanzadeh-Keshteli A, Afshar H, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. The association of whole and refined grains consumption with psychological disorders among Iranian adults. Eur J Nutr. 2019 Feb;58(1):211-225. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1585-x.

  16. Gangwisch JE, Hale L, Garcia L, Malaspina D, Opler MG, Payne ME, Rossom RC, Lane D. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women's Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug;102(2):454-63. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103846. Epub 2015 Jun 24.

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