Do you eat foods that can contribute to anxiety?
Anxiety is a state of excessive nervousness, worry, and similar emotional distress. In moderation, there is nothing inherently wrong with experiencing anxiety. But when it becomes chronic, you can develop an anxiety disorder that changes the way your brain handles stress and distressing situations, or even how it perceives potential threats.
Those who experience a lot of anxiety know that it can be debilitating. If you’re one of them, you’ve probably already heard all kinds of advice on the dos and don’ts for managing anxiety. Many less informed but well meaning people may try to impose you on specialized diets that are “proven” to “cure” anxiety.
While there is no panacea for anxiety, and no diet is guaranteed to help that problem, what you eat can actually contribute to its severity. In fact, many aspects of mental health can be affected by diet. Eating a poor diet will almost certainly make the symptoms you experience worse, and that is a scientific fact!
So what kinds of foods should you avoid? You’ll want to steer clear of foods that most experts agree are bad for your brain and your stress levels. Simply put, nutritionists want you to avoid these 9 foods that contribute to anxiety, and there’s a lot of science to back it up.
Sugar causes a rise in blood glucose levels that occurs when you consume sugars. This elevation reduces the proteins necessary for the growth of neurons, which causes a decrease in synapses. Essentially, this leads to mood swings, decreased positive thinkingand, of course, increases in anxiety levels. Even just eating sugar starts this process!
You’ll also want to be very wary of added sugars and artificial sweeteners, especially hidden ones, says registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author Erin Palinski-Wade. Not realizing you’re eating all of these sugars can cause a wave of blood glucose spikes and drops, one after another, leading to an even worse mood overall.
- Baked beans
- Barbecue sauce
- Dried fruit
- Flavored yogurt
- Frozen food
- Granola bars
- Pasta and pasta sauce
- Salad dressing
- Mixed nuts
- White bread
But what if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try the option for these unprocessed sweet substitutes:
- Sweet potatoes
- Yacon syrup
Did you know that 62% of all Americans consume coffee daily, averaging more than 3 cups per person? That’s a lot of coffee, and as it turns out, much of it is not good for you! Palinski-Wade states that caffeine can:
- Decreases the production of serotonin, a positive hormone.
- Increases the feeling of nervousness and anxiety.
- Contribute to a drastic reduction in positive thinking, leaving you in a depressed mood
The good news is that caffeine is not inherently negative, especially in small amounts. But too much of this at once can have a lot of those side effects, making anxiety symptoms even worse. Investigation has found that just 300 mg of caffeine a day experience twice the stress of non-coffee drinkers. That’s less than what is in a “large” cup of coffee at Starbucks!
However, it’s important to remember that caffeine doesn’t just come from coffee. Medications and supplements such as ginseng and St. John’s wort are high in caffeine that can lead to anxiety.
Looking for an alternative to your usual coffee? Try some matcha green tea! Provides some caffeine but in a clean and less invasive way. In addition, it includes a component called L-theanine, which stimulates relaxation.
3. Canned foods contribute to anxiety
For the most part, the foods you want to buy shouldn’t come with big brand labels. Choose whole foods over processed options most of the time. Certified nutritionist and author Trudy Scott states that processed foods should always avoid processed products. Food labels with a long list of chemicals are not what you want to put on your body.
Part of this is due to bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used in a vast majority of plastic and canned packaging. BPA is capable of unbalancing hormones, destabilizing mood and causing long-term anxiety and a decrease in positive thinking.
4. Fermented and aged foods
Many fermented foods they are promoted as healthy or relaxing. Consider, for example, the many probiotic benefits of foods like kimchi, tofu, and tempeh. Or, perhaps, think of the cured, cultured, and fermented meats and cheese dishes that are often considered luxurious and decadent.
Although fine in moderation, these foods are known to cause anxiety due to dietary protein. This is because the aging, fermentation, or curing process of food involves the use of bacteria to break down biogenic amines, a type of protein, into histamine.
You’ve probably heard the term “histamine” used with “antihistamines,” which are drugs that reduce histamine production and response. Let’s just say there’s a reason we have common medications designed to fight histamines! Histamine is a type of hormone or neurotransmitter that works by aggravating the following body systems:
For people who tend to be more susceptible to these neurotransmitters, consuming foods with histamine can lead to the triggering of problems like insomnia and anxiety, for example. studiesand nutritional and metabolic psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Ede. If this is a problem for you, try choosing fresh foods and whole foods instead and stick only to the fermented options that are the healthiest.
Soy sauce is full of gluten, And even those who are not sensitive to it can face health problems from eating too much. This is because the human body is only partially able to digest gluten, and trying to force it can lead to allergic reactions and irritation.
In most cases, only people with celiac disease should avoid consuming gluten. But according to psychiatrist and nutritionist Emily Deans, many people still experience negative reactions to its use. In fact, studies have found that you can experience 90% higher levels of depression when consuming gluten after a gluten-free period.
6. Alcohol can contribute to anxiety
Often times, those who experience anxiety in social situations will turn to alcohol to help calm their nerves. They don’t realize this doesn’t work! Palinski-Wade notes that alcohol can have negative effects on sleep, hydration, and stress hormones. As long as it calms you down right now, there will be a lot to pay for later.
When you consume alcohol, you temporarily suppress your nervous system, allowing you to feel more relaxed. Later on, the neurotransmitters in your brain will come back in full force when your system wakes up again. This is also the same reason that alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it is worse for your quality of sleep, since studies state.
There is nothing wrong with consuming alcohol in moderation unless you have an intolerance or sensitivity. If you are concerned, you should speak to your doctor. If not, it’s okay to have one or two servings a day, not too close to bedtime.
Looking for substitutes? Unfortunately, there is no suitable substitute for alcohol and its effects. But if it’s just taste you’re after, fizzy drinks like mocktails can provide similar experiences.
7. Night shadows
Solanaceae are types of plants that naturally produce a particular pesticide. These chemicals kill worms and other insects. Unfortunately, pesticides, glycoalkaloids, are toxic to certain cells in the human body.
Ede claims that glycoalkaloids work by blocking an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase. These cholinergic enzymes are found in nerves and muscles and work by breaking down natural neurotransmitters. When blocked by glycoalkaloids, the nervous system becomes overstimulated, especially in those who are sensitive to it.
Many different negative results have been found in humans consuming this enzyme, with anxiety and decreased positive thinking be among them. Enzymes can stay in the body for up to five days and are difficult to avoid. Here are some common foods with Solanaceae components:
- Potato starch
- Red pepper flakes
- Tomato paste
8. Non-dairy creamers
Common non-dairy creamers often contain trans fats or hydrogenated oils. You have probably already heard a lot about how bad these components are for the body, as they increase bad cholesterol levels and reduce positive some. This leads to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Even if you can’t go for the typical dairy options, you will benefit from using soy or almond milk instead of conventional non-dairy generic options. Still, if you have the choice and are willing to take it, whole milk and creams will always be infinitely better for you in this regard!
9. Fruit juice can contribute to anxiety
Fruit juice is packed with sugar, which we already see as terrible for anxiety. Most store-bought juices contain fructose, which is only processed in the liver and can easily be consumed in excess by accident. The body generally does not prefer to consume energy from fructose, but the liver will fill with it, which could cause excessive consumption if that is the only incoming energy source.
Fructose is naturally found in fruits, but when fresh fruit is in the picture, the fiber in it helps counteract the negative effects of fructose. For most, this completely negates the problem. Unfortunately, in fruit juice, that fiber is completely removed and replaced by even more fructose, and this time it’s the processed kind!
Fructose has been found in studies to change the way the brain naturally reacts to stress, even at the genetic level. It’s pretty scary stuff, and all the more reason to limit yourself to fresh fruits! If you really want fruit juice, go for fresh ones. Or, better yet, make them yourself at home.
It can make your anxiety about the types of food you eat worse. Usually, foods that are bad for your physical health are bad for your mental health, too. So stay away from these nine foods that nutritionists say could contribute to anxiety. After all, it can make the disorder more manageable in everyday life.