What you put on your plate could have a major impact on how you feel—and we’re not just talking about your energy levels. New research has lifted the lid on the darker side of our daily menus, revealing that certain foods may increase both depression and anxiety. The biggest culprit? Fried foods.
In a study conducted by UK Biobank, researchers put data from 140,728 different people under the microscope. This data include deets on their fried food intake, anxiety levels and depression symptoms over an extensive 11-year period. When the study was concluded, the researchers noted that of this group, there were more than 8,000 cases of anxiety and more than 12,000 cases of depression.
Ultimately, they found that those regularly eating more than a single serving of fried food every day had a 12% higher risk of anxiety and were 7% more likely to develop depression than those abstaining from the deep-fried options. The fried food eaters were far more likely to be men, younger than the rest of the pack and active smokers.
The Science Behind Your Depressing Meals
Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in many foods during high-temp cooking processes such as roasting, baking and frying. The compound usually forms from a combo of sugars and an amino acid found in specific grub (like potatoes). Researchers found that zebrafish exposed regularly to this chemical started to develop anxiety-like and depression-like behaviour. (Note: the same connection hasn’t yet been observed in humans.)
However, the authors also pointed out that fried foods might not be the factor actually setting off the symptoms of a mental health crisis. It could be possible, for instance, that those suffering from depression or anxiety were more likely to choose these calorie-dense options for dinner.
But steering clear of anxiety and depression is not the only reason to avoid fried foods. Multiple studies have found that regular consumption of fried foods can increase your risk of obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Naturally, eating these oil-laced options can also spike your risk of death, too.
Craving Fried Food? Try These 3 Healthy Oils
It’s tough to ditch fried food, and there’s no reason you should. Making smarter choices—like swapping out the oil you’re using for a healthier alternative—could help you avoid many of the risks associated with chowing down on these delicious items.
Ultimately, you want to look for oils containing saturated or monounsaturated fats as these are typically more stable when you put them over the burner. That means you’ll want to avoid oils that are likely to produce acrylamide when you get them bubbling. Canola, soybean, corn, sunflower and grape seed oil are just a few you’ll want to avoid.
Let’s look at three oils that could save you from serving up health risks next mealtime:
1. Olive Oil
Olive-derived oil is packed with monounsaturated fats making it a stable option for frying. Some studies have found it’ll remain resilient in a deep fryer even across longer cooking times. This bottle is grown here in SA, and is cold-extracted to preserve flavour and nutrients.
2. Avocado Oil
With a similar composition to olive oil, this one will withstand most cooking temps without turning your meals into anxiety-inducing dishes. We like this bottle from Earthfood that’s locally made and doesn’t include any pesky palm oil, GMOs or other artificial additives.
3. Coconut Oil
Most of the fatty acids in this oil are saturated, making it a great option for your frying (both shallow and deep) pursuits. This jar will keep for ages and doubles up as a hair conditioner or skin moisturiser, too.
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