Many of us turn to junk food when we need a pick-me-up, but this popular comfort item may actually be making it worse.
An article from Agence-France Presse cited a Spanish study showing that eating food with a lot of saturated fats and trans fats has been linked to an increased risk for depression.
Junk Food Study
The study analyzed 12,000 participants over the course of 6 years, noting their lifestyles and diet. None of these volunteers had been diagnosed with depression when the study began, but by the end, 657 participants were battling with it.
Researchers found that eating food with high levels of trans fats (an artificial form of fats usually found in processed food) can be linked to a 48% higher chance of depression. In the study, the amount of trans fats that participants consumed related to the level of depression with which they dealt. Conversely, healthy food like vegetable oils, olive oil and fish seemed to have a noticeably positive impact on mental health because of their omega-9 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats.
Researchers noted that the study was performed on European subjects, who typically consume less trans fats than Americans. Nevertheless, the risk level increased by 50%, and they said it may be even more important for Americans to limit their intake of trans fats based on these findings.
Healthy Fats vs. Bad Fats
How can you tell which fats are beneficial and which are harmful? Here is a breakdown of the different types of fat:
Verdict: Bad. Trans fats are formed when liquid oils are hydrogenated, which occurs by introducing hydrogen into a fat to partially solidify it. Scientists invented this method primarily for the preservation of processed foods. You can find it in items like:
- Commercially fried fast food
- Vegetable shortening and margarine
- Microwave popcorn
And many others. One way to minimize your intake of “bad fat” is to avoid commercially processed food, which tend to be high in trans fats. Read the nutrition label on the back to determine which fats are present.
Verdict: Bad. These fats raise your cholesterol and are mainly found in animal products like dairy, meat and eggs. Animal products have some great health benefits, so you don’t need to avoid them altogether, but trimming the fat from your pot roast and buying low-fat milk could help you lower your intake of saturated fat. You can also find it in some plant products like palm oil and coconut oil.
Verdict: Good. These fats actually help lower your cholesterol and includes things like Omega 3 fatty acid. You can find it in items like:
- Fish oil
- Some seafood (like salmon)
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
- Soy oil
- Safflower oil
Verdict: Good. These fats actually lower bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. They have also been found to help with weight loss and body fat reduction. This category includes food like:
- Olive oil
Not all fat is bad. It might help to evaluate your diet and see into which of the 4 categories most of it falls. It may take a little more careful planning and balancing, but if you want to help maintain or improve your mental health, you may want to start avoiding “bad fats” and leaning more toward “good fats.”