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Junk food might be causing your anxiety and depression

ultra processed foods

Junk food might be causing your anxiety and depression


Are you feeling anxious, depressed, or simply having a "mentally unhealthy" day? Ultra-processed foods might be the culprit. New research shows that people who consume much ultra-processed foods are likely to experience poor mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. So yes, processed foods can cause anxiety.

What are ultra-processed foods?

Wondering what ultra-processed food is? Ultra-processed foods include packaged snacks, sodas, and pre-packaged meals, and they usually have a plethora of ingredients you may have never even heard of. Sadly, ultra-processed foods make up about 70 percent of all packaged foods in the US. They contain a huge amount of calories and are devoid of proteins or any real natural nutrients that make up a healthy meal. They're fast and sweet and will rescue you from the hunger pangs quickly, but they harm your mental health in the process.

If you're looking for anxiety foods to avoid, ultra-processed foods come top of the list. Examples of ultra-processed foods include sodas, hotdogs, chocolate, candy, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, etc. In essence, limit your packaged foods intake and find time to eat whole meals as much as possible for your mental health's sake.

How does processed food cause anxiety?

The ultra-processing of food reduces the nutritional value while increasing the calories by adding sugar, and sugar-rich foods are known to increase the likelihood of anxiety. In summary, you're eating junk food with no nutritional value but causing potential harm to your mental health.

Why does this matter?

About 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental illness. Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are leading causes of death and suicide. Ultra-processed food can cause anxiety and depression.

Sadly, too many Americans are busy and often turn to packaged foods to save time and energy. Interestingly, ultra-processed foods make up 70% of all packaged foods in the US and up to 60% of all calories consumed by Americans. So, in essence, Americans are pretty much exposed to ultra-processed foods, which is likely a leading contributing factor to the mental health crisis.


What you can do

You might have felt anxious after living on ultra-processed foods for some time. You possibly even get grumpy and just don't feel good. That's the junk food taking its toll on your mental health.

The truth is, life can sometimes get so busy that it becomes challenging to cook your own meals. But your mental health matters just as much as your job, if not more.

So it's in your best interest to consume more of whole foods rather than junk. Whole foods are unprocessed, meaning they've not been filled with additives such as sugar and other ingredients that offer no nutritional value. Think fruits, vegetables, lean meat, nuts, and whole grains.

Mind what you consume, and you'd be doing your mental health a whole lot of good. And when you feel good, you're much more productive at your job.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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