Anxiety is described as a constant psychological state that is characterized by intense feelings of worry, tension, and nervousness. Anxiety affects women two times more than men, which can be linked to the hormone fluctuations experienced during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
There are several causes for anxiety, like excessive stress and lack of exercise. People tend to crave foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt when they are feeling anxious and stressed, but these foods directly increase levels of cortisol - the stress hormone - which amplifies anxiety symptoms.
Foods to Avoid that Cause Anxiety
Each person has different triggers, but for many, the following foods and drinks contribute to anxiety symptoms:
Coffee, sodas, and energy drinks cause a spike of energy and increase heart rate and blood pressure. They inhibit serotonin levels in the brain and cause irritability when you eventually crash.
Similar to a caffeine spike, a sugar rush is only a temporary lift. When it wears off, the body increases insulin to remove sugar from the bloodstream, which can result in fatigue and anxiety.
Most people think that alcohol helps easy anxiety, but it is a depressant that actually amplifies anxiety symptoms. While one glass of wine may help you unwind after a long day, more than that will tend to cause negative effects, like dehydration, disrupted sleep, and irritability - leading to anxiety.
Processed meats are loaded with preservatives and sodium, which increase the risk for anxiety and depression. The nitrates in these meats also trigger headaches in some people.
Studies have shown that people who ate mostly unhealthy, processed, and fried foods had a higher risk of depression and anxiety.
Spicy foods aggravate discomfort and tend to worsen anxiety. Additionally, people that experience anxiety and high stress tend to have difficulty digesting food properly.
Keeping track of what you eat and your anxiety symptoms in a journal can help you pinpoint if your diet is increasing anxiety. It is also helpful to be aware of foods that can help prevent anxiety. Read about foods that reduce menopausal anxiety.
Healthy Foods for Preventing Anxiety
A diet rich in a variety of nutrients and help manage the symptoms of anxiety. Healthy foods include:
Avocados are rich in B vitamins, which help relieve stress and promote healthy nerves and brain cells. They are also a good source of unsaturated fat and potassium, which helps lower blood pressure.
A warm glass of milk before bed is a tried and true remedy for insomnia and restlessness. Milk is high in vitamins B2 and B12, protein, potassium, and calcium.
These nuts are rich in vitamins B2 and E, and are thought to be essential to the health of the immune system.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent cortisol and adrenaline levels from spiking.
This leafy green is packed with magnesium and other beneficial nutrients that help promote feelings of well-being.
Many people do not think about food as a cause of anxiety, but what you put into your body considerably affects how you feel throughout the day. It makes sense that if you eat unhealthy foods, you are not going to feel good. Conversely, if you do eat healthy foods, you will have optimal energy and feel good overall. Avoid foods that cause anxiety, like fried foods, candy, and excess caffeine. Read about overcoming anxiety episodes.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Anxiety disorders fact sheet. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anxiety-disorders.html