While junk food and processed foods may provide a dose of instant gratification, Spanish researchers say they’ve found a direct link between the consumption of fast food and depression.
After observing 8,964 participants over six months, scientists found that consumers of fast food were 51 percent more likely to develop depression. And the more they ate, the greater the risk.
Their findings, published in the March issue of Public Health Nutrition, reveal a grim portrait of the junk food binger: single, inactive, with poor dietary habits like eating less fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and olive oil.
They also tend to be smokers who work more than 45 hours a week.
While the chosen participants had never been diagnosed with depression or taken anti-depressants, by the end of the study 493 were diagnosed with the condition or started to take mild anti-depressants.
Even eating small quantities of processed foods like pre-packaged cakes and hot dogs is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression, researchers said.
The latest study builds on previous research from the same group which found that while trans fats and saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of depression, olive oil can actually protect against mental illness.
Meanwhile, WebMD.com offers a list of mood-boosting foods which also happen to be rich in vitamins and nutrients.
For example, look for foods rich in folic acid like beans and spinach, and fish, lean poultry and dairy, which are good sources of vitamin B12, two nutrients which have been shown to help keep mood disorders at bay.
Strong evidence has also linked depression to deficiency in Vitamin D –- better known as the sunshine vitamin. Dietary sources include fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
And for an instant mood lift, treat yourself to a small piece of dark chocolate, which releases the feel-good endorphins that can send people on a momentary, all-natural high.