Some 322 million people around the world live with depression. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most commonly diagnosed form of depression. Just under 20 million people in the U.S. alone experienced at least one depressive episode in the last year. However, nutritional neuroscientists discovered depression is not necessarily a strictly biochemical or emotional issue. Just as essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals can reduce depressive symptoms, other foods appear to trigger them.
Refined and processed foods are high in sugar and unhealthy fats, and low in fiber and nutrients. They also contain a lot of gluten, which, on its own, provides no nutritional benefits. Some studies indicate gluten specifically causes depressive symptoms in both people with and without celiac disease. Processed carbohydrates such as white bread, cereal, pasta, and snack foods negatively affect blood sugar levels. A crash follows the initial insulin boost, leaving the individual feeling fatigued and depressed. Studies link processed foods with a disruption of the neural receptors that affect mood control.
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