Food to Avoid if You Have Depression


By “Bonny Llyn, M.A

  1. High Sodium Foods.

When the sodium level is too high, the main cause is not the over consumption of salt, but rather dehydration. When a food is labeled “fat-free,” it potentially has more sodium. High sodium in our body and blood is a condition called hypernatremia. Hypernatremia leads to multiple symptoms including confusion, fatigue, restlessness, as well as depression and irritability.

  1. Nicotine.

Nicotine is known to disrupt the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This in turn makes people addicted to nicotine, creating the downward    spiral of mood swings and further imbalanced brain chemicals.

  1. Nightshade Vegetables & Fruits.

You may be shocked by this as nightshade vegetables are in our every meal every day. A list of common nightshade food are cayenne, eggplant, goji berries, gooseberries, habanero chili, chili peppers, Jerusalem cherries, paprika, pepino (which looks similar to cucumbers but cucumber is not a nightshade), all peppers (including bell peppers), potatoes, tamarillos, tomatillos, and tomatoes.

Nightshade fruits and vegetables contain solanine and other neurotoxins that are alkaloids produced  naturally to protect fruit and vegetable plants from insects. In brief, nightshades contain natural pesticides. The human nervous system functions can also be negatively affected when we eat nightshades along with their natural pesticides.  Other neurotoxins in nightshades include nicotine and scopolamine. The latter depresses the central nervous system. Depression can be  one of the chronic symptoms of nightshade poisoning.

  1. Processed Food.

Common food additives found in processed food trigger and can cause depression.

Take for example,  ham. Ham is a processed food that mostly comes from factory farms. Pigs are injected with antibiotics in factory farms. The ham itself is also injected with sugar, salt, fillers, and nitrate preservatives. All of these ingredients in ham, a processed food, can trigger low moods, migraines, and swollen ankles.

  1. Margarine.

Margarine is an industrial fat, which often causes inflammation, and contains too much omega-6 fatty acids. This can lead to mood changes as well as unhealthy insulin levels.

  1. Vegetable Shortening.

Vegetable shortening is partially hydrogenated oil, which is trans fat. Trans fat leads to biological changes as well as inflammation, and both are linked to depression.

  1. Sugar. Refined or not, sugar is detrimental for physical as well as mental and emotional health. Sugar is particularly bad news for people suffering from depression due to its effect on mood. What’s worth mentioning is, agave nectar, although well loved by some being a “natural sweetener,” can lead to insulin resistance and mood instability. Quoting Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, an associate at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and fellow of the American College of Nutrition, agave is “almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing.”

On the food labels, look for “high fructose corn syrup.” It’s synonymous with “processed sugar.”

Why is sugar bad for people with depression?

In brain scans, sugar appears as addictive as cocaine. Immediately after sugar consumption, dopamine and serotonin, both happy hormones, increase – this is a classical sugar rush.  But at the same time, the production of both hormones slows down, in order to regulate their amounts in the blood stream and our brain. Now, low mood sets in. It’s only natural to go for more sugar, to feel better again. The addiction starts.

People with depression are shown to have lower BDNF, a hormone vital for the process of thinking, learning, and higher levels of brain function. Sugar suppresses BDNF.

Sugar causes chronic inflammation. Inflammation has been studied more in recently years as either the result or the cause of depression. For example, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Campbell Family Mental Research Institute in Toronto, Canada found significant inflammation in the brains of depressed people. There is an increase of inflammation by 30% in the brains of the people experiencing clinical depression.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list.  By paying attention to how your body reacts to a certain food, you can continue to list beneficial food as well food causing you discomfort, including aggravated symptoms of depression and allergies.