7 Foods That Depress Your Mood, AKA Sad Meals

by Lindsay E. Mack

Is your favorite comfort food actually bumming you out? It sounds too cruel to be true, but there are indeed foods that may depress your mood. If you’re feeling crummy for no apparent reason, then your snacks just might be to blame. Sadly, digging into that pint of ice cream after a breakup may only make matters worse.

And of course it isn’t the healthy foods that are the culprit. I could find no correlation between, say, baby spinach and bad moods. It’s mostly the junk food camp that’s responsible, the sweet, salty. fried things that provide more taste than nutrition. Anything that is processed or refined is probably on the sad snacks list.

This isn’t to say you have to give up these foods forever — I certainly don’t want to live in a world without grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread. But it’s a handy thing to know if you’re randomly feeling down sometime. Maybe the vending machine cookies are the cause? Overall, you can know which types of food to avoid in order to keep your spirits up. And on the flip side, there are also foods that can make you feel happier and boost your mood overall. Here’s to happier snacking for everyone.


White Bread

As a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found, women who ate sugar and refined grains experienced a higher risk of depression due to the spike in blood sugar. Overall, foods with a higher glycemic index, such as refined foods and pastries, may lead to lower moods.


Packaged Snacks

PsychCentral's mental health writer Therese J. Borchard notes that the consumption of hydrogenated oils and trans fats may lead to a more depressed mood. Lots of foods contain hydrogen oils, from packaged snacks to fried foods to margarine.



Sure, that initial sugar buzz might perk up your mood for a few minutes. But again, foods with a high glycemic index have been found to make depression worse, and added sugars in particular are strongly associated with depression, as Time reported.



The Mayo Clinic reported that a poor quality diet — including one with lots of fried food — may be correlated to an increase in depression. It suggests ample fruits, vegetables, and fish instead.



The journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported on a study that found rats fed saturated fats became less sensitive to dopamine. Dopamine is what Shape calls the brain's "feel-good" neurotransmitter, so there may be a direct link between saturated fat intake and low moods. Foods high in saturated fats include many meats and dairy products.


Commercial Baked Goods

According to the journal Public Health Nutrition, the consumption of muffins, doughnuts, and other commercial baked goods may worsen depression. This may be a good reason to pass on the pastries.


Processed Meals

A 2009 study called from the British Journal of Psychiatry found and association between consumption of processed food and depression. In the study, processed food referred to processed meats, refined grains, fried food, high-fat dairy products, and desserts with added sugar. In other words, it's probably better for your mood to stick to more natural options.