9 Foods That Help or Hurt Anxiety

Food to Avoid: Coffee and Caffeinated Drinks

Some people drink coffee and other beverages that contain caffeine (tea, cola, and hot chocolate) to help boost their energy levels. The problem is that caffeine has been shown to inhibit levels of serotonin in the brain, and, when serotonin levels are suppressed, you can become depressed and feel irritable. Caffeine is also a diuretic — it makes you go to the bathroom more often. Even mild dehydration can cause depression. Caffeine also can keep you awake, leading to stress and anxiety. Remember that you need to sleep well to be in a positive mood.

Food to Avoid: Candy

Of course, almost everyone likes sweets, and sweets (including those containing table sugar, honey, and corn syrup) can make us feel better, but again it’s a temporary lift. Here’s why: Sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. The absorption causes an initial high or surge of energy. But that surge wears off as the body increases its insulin production to remove the sugar from your bloodstream. The result: You’re left feeling tired and low.

Food to Avoid: Alcohol

Some people drink alcohol because it seems to ease stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, the good mood is only temporary. In the long run, alcohol is a depressant. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic, and it’s important to stay hydrated for a number of reasons, including mood. If you do drink, drink in moderation. “If you have a 6-ounce glass of wine at dinner, it’s probably fine,” Villacorta said. “But you don’t want to be a heavy drinker, finishing off a few bottles with your meal.”

Food to Avoid: Hot Dogs

Could processed foods such as hot dogs, sausage, pie, and cakes cause anxiety or other mental health issues? Researchers in London found that eating a diet of processed and fatty foods increases the risk for depression. In the study, people who mainly ate fried food, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and sweetened desserts had a 58 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate “whole” foods such as fish and vegetables. It’s best for your mood, said Villacorta, to skip the over-processed foods.