Anxiety is something that many people experience on a regular basis. It’s often caused by stress, ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. When talking about interventions and strategies for dealing with anxiety, we often turn to things such as exercise, breathing and grounding techniques and other lifestyle changes in order to manage our worries.
One lifestyle change that isn’t mentioned enough is diet. Our diet has such a huge impact on our life; both mentally and physically. Certain foods can trigger anxiety and it’s important to learn which foods feed anxiety and which foods don’t.
Below is a list of foods to avoid if you have anxiety:
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a known stimulant and has been shown to activate the flight or fight response. As a stimulant, caffeine mimics some of the physical symptoms of anxiety such as, feeling nervous, jittery, nauseous and light headed. As well, caffeine can decrease the production of the mood enhancing chemical, serotonin, which can increase chances of depression.
- Alcohol: Ironically enough, many people drink alcohol as a way to relax and escape their worries. However, alcohol effects your hydration and sleep, both of which can trigger anxiety. Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin in the brain, which makes anxiety worse. And when the alcohol wears off, people often feel more anxious.
- Processed Foods: Processed foods are one of the worst types of foods that we can eat. What’s included in this list? Crackers, chips, processed meats like hot dogs and various lunch meats, cheese slices etc…Researchers in London found that processed foods such as these, as well as fried foods, sweetened desserts and high fat dairy foods, can increase your risk of depression. In the study, they also found that those whose diets consisted mostly of fish and vegetables were at less of a risk for mental illness.
- Added Sugar: I’m sure it’s no surprise that candy, desserts and added sugar have made the list. Added sugar causes your blood sugar to rise and then ultimately, crash. When your blood sugar crashes, your mood goes down with it and anxiety levels can spike. One thing to remember is that sugar can be found in foods that you don’t often think about. Ketchup, salad dressing, pasta and white bread all contain high levels of sugar; it’s always important to read food labels when shopping.
- Energy Drinks: In general, energy drinks aren’t good for you. They can have an impact on your heart rhythm, contain a lot of caffeine and sugar and as a result, can cause sleep issues and anxiety.
- Gluten: This one is for people who are sensitive to gluten. In addition to breads, pasta and pastries, gluten can also be found in prepackaged foods such as soy sauce, wheat, barley and rye products. If you’re sensitive to gluten, it can put you at a higher risk for anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
- Fruit Juice: Fruit juices, like pop and other store-bought drinks, are high in sugar. There are three different types of sugar: sucrose, glucose and fructose. Fructose is the sugar that is naturally found in fruits and vegetables and is usually added to fruit juice. Although sugar doesn’t cause anxiety, it causes physical changes in your body that can increase anxiety symptoms and make it more difficult to cope with stress.