Is there a link between depression and refined carbohydrates?

According to a study by Columbia Medical Center in 2015, a diet high in refined carbohydrates may lead to an increased risk for new-onset depression in postmenopausal women.

Highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread/pasta, white rice, crackers, cookies and soda increase blood sugar and trigger a hormonal response in the body to reduce blood sugar levels. This response also may result in mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms of depression.

The researchers found that progressively higher consumption of added sugar and refined grains was linked with new-onset depression. However, greater consumption of dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables and fruit was associated with a decreased risk. This suggests that a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates could serve as a treatment and preventive measure for depression.

So if you are feeling a little “blue,” take a look at your diet. Start thinking of food as a medicine. The only side effect is better physical and mental health!

Foods to help maintain mental health

  • Beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach and sweet potato
  • Vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries and tomato
  • Vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ
  • Complex carbs: whole grains and legumes
  • Healthy proteins: beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products and yogurt
  • Omega-3s: flaxseed, canola and soybean oils, nuts (especially walnuts) and dark green, leafy vegetables

Kathleen Mahon, RN, MN, CNP, APHN
Nurse Practitioner in Functional Medicine