Which nosh makes you happier -- carrot sticks or potato chips? If you want to feel happy for more than a minute, go for the sticks.
Why? Because research shows that the potato chips could be bringing you down. It seems that certain foods may bump up the risk of clinical blues. And junk food and sweets are high on that list, according to a recent study.
You Are What You . . .
In the study, researchers characterized the typical diets of middle-aged volunteers as either "whole food" -- meaning he or she tended to eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and fish -- or as "processed food" -- meaning the study participant favored fried foods, sweets, refined grains, processed meat, and high-fat dairy. For the next 5 years, the researchers tracked the participants to see who became depressed and who didn't. The results? The junk-food junkies were 58 percent more likely to be down in the dumps. (Wondering whether you're a candidate for counseling or some other type of mood therapy? Take this quiz to find out.)
How Good Food Helps
Researchers suspect a healthy diet helps ward off the blues in several ways. First, produce-heavy diets deliver lots of folate, which enhances communication between brain cells. Second, fruits and veggies are also packed with antioxidants, which are linked to lower rates of depression. And finally, there's fish. Lots of research has shown that long-chain omega-3 fats, found in abundance in fish, may defend against depression by reducing inflammation in the brain. (Next time you need a nibble, try this mood-boosting snack.)