Depression -- the dark side of 'comfort' foods

It's the definition of irony: The very foods folks turn to in times of stress -- "comfort" foods like grandma's special pasta recipe -- can do just the opposite of provide comfort.

They can actually CAUSE depression in folks who otherwise don't have the condition.

Sorry, grandma, but the worst of the lot are carbs and starches -- like your famous pasta recipe -- as well as sugars and refined grains (yes, there goes your peach cobbler, too).

High-glycemic foods in particular can have a big impact on your risk of developing depression.

The more of these foods you eat, the higher your risk of a new case of depression climbs, according to the study of older women in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

High-glycemic foods are for the most part (although not entirely) carbs. They're foods that have the biggest effect on your blood sugar levels and insulin release, causing a wild roller coaster ride of peaks and dips.

This can even have a short-term effect on your mood, as anyone who's ever experienced the "sugar rush" followed by the "sugar crash" can tell you.

In general, pasta, white bread, sugars, rice, many breakfast cereals (including instant oatmeal), potatoes and more are high on the glycemic index and for the most part shouldn't be a regular part of your diet.

Even certain fruits are high on the glycemic index, such as melon and pineapple. And while you don't have to avoid them completely if you're healthy, it's important to be aware of how they can affect your blood sugar and your mood, and make sure you balance them out with healthier choices the rest of the day.

Just about all high-glycemic foods have healthier versions, such as real oatmeal instead of the flavored instant junk and whole grain breads and pastas (just be sure you get a truly whole grain version, and not one that merely claims to be "made with whole grains").

And of course, choose healthier foods overall, as the same study finds that eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains will cut your risk of depression.

Maybe those should be considered the new comfort foods.

And if you're really looking for a piping hot bowl of comfort that could prevent or even ease depression instead of causing it, I've got just the dish -- and you can read all about it in this free report from my House Calls archives.