There are several possible explanations why this may be true.
Donuts, other baked goodies, and fast food often contain unhealthy fats, specifically, trans-fatty acids (think partially hydrogenated...). In one study, scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada found that consumers of fast food and commercial baked goods (compared to people who eat little or no fast food) are more than twice as likely to develop depression compared to people who don't eat this kind of food. The more junk food that is consumed, the greater the incidence of depression.
This could be the result of one or two things. When we succumb to the sugar and fatty foods to satisfy a momentary craving, it may make us feel better for a very short time, but then our moods crash once the sugar high wears off and our brains are once again looking for a new supply of energy. Sugar and trans fats can diminish our brain stores of happy chemicals, specifically, serotonin and dopamine. Elevated levels of dopamine can help us feel great and falling levels can make us feel sad. Sugar and trans fats increase overall inflammation in the body, which not only makes us feel sad, it can lead to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more.
A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) confirmed a relationship between depression and abdominal obesity, where researchers found that depressed young adults gained weight at a faster rate than their non-depressed counterparts over a 15-year period. It seems like a vicious cycle. Here's how to break it:
- Choose lean and clean protein before refined carbohydrates. Many times you won't even crave the sugary snack once you've had a good dose of protein.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day - more if you exercise at least 30 minutes a day, which we all need to do.
- Use olive oil in cooking, baking and in salad dressings and sauces.
- Read labels and avoid all partially hydrogenated fats. Check the sugar content on the nutrition facts label. If it's not naturally occurring (for example, the food contains fresh fruit), then the sugar content should be less than 10 grams per serving.
- When we consume healthy fats in the form of olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish and many nuts and seeds, we decrease our risk of heart disease, decrease inflammation in the body, and increase mental well being.
- Don't skip meals. Eating smaller meals at frequent intervals (like every 3 hours) will help prevent bingeing on sweets because the blood sugar has dropped into your toes.