Have you ever heard of a study indicating that we should eat more junk food? Me either. That's why I wasn't surprised to hear about the results of a March study in the journal Public Health Nutrition where researchers found that people who ate junk food were 51 percent more likely to show signs of depression.
And the more junk food study participants ate, the more likely they were to be depressed. That seems to explain why emotional eating becomes such a vicious cycle for some people.
We learned from a January study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that when women experience "burn out" at work, they are likely to engage in emotionally-charged and uncontrolled eating. If those women are eating junk food for comfort, they may just be making a bad situation worse.
Junk food might make you feel better for the moment, but it could be hurting you in the long run, causing you to be even more depressed, and leaving you to seek comfort from food yet again. This cycle doesn't stop until you're strong enough to put down the potato chips.
Fortunately, you can avoid the ill-effects of junk food and the cycle of emotional eating that may come as a result of your indulgence. Instead of draining your happiness with junk food, try adopting these mood-enhancing habits:
- Eat more "good mood" foods: According to a 2003 study from researchers in Finland, foods rich in B vitamins may ward off depression and other mental problems. To get more "B" in your diet, eat more spinach, beans, fish and lean poultry.
- Go out and play in the sunshine: A 2011 study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings linked higher blood levels of vitamin D with a reduced risk of depression. Because the skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, you can increase your levels simply by spending more time outside on a clear day. If that's not an option, you can also take vitamin D supplements.
- Eat dark chocolate: This is a great substitute for junk food because it's likely to satisfy your craving for something sweet and make you feel good at the same time. According a 2011 review from Yale University researchers, eating chocolate in moderation can improve feelings of fullness, cognitive function and mood.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!