People can feel anxious, jittery, wired, or jumpy after eating or drinking, even if they don’t realize it. Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food,” says that these people “feel like they can’t really settle down.” When they eat certain foods, they experience “almost an internal panic,” she says, but they don’t always realize it’s because of the food.
According to Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian in Chicago, certain foods can contribute to anxiety or trigger such feelings by causing blood sugar spikes.
“When you eat something high in sugar, your blood sugar spikes and then drops faster than if you ate something more balanced in protein, carbs, and fat,” Michalczyk explains. “This uptick and downtick can exacerbate anxiety and make some people feel like they’re having a panic attack.”
Sugary foods like cakes, cookies, candy, pies, soda pop, and other sweets can cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Here are ten of the worst foods, drinks, and ingredients to avoid if you’re suffering from anxiety:
- Cakes, cookies, candies, and pies are just a few of the desserts available.
- Sugary beverages
- Meats that have been processed, cheese, and ready-made meals.
- Coffee, tea, and energy drinks are some of the most popular beverages.
- Alcohol is a depressant.
- Smoothies made with fruits and vegetables but no protein.
- Gluten is a protein that is found in many foods
- Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes.
- Sugars that are not readily apparent.
- Vegetable oils that have been processed.
Moreover, according to Dr. Daniel Devine, a dual-board certified internist and geriatrician and co-founder of Devine Concierge Medicine, many of the comfort foods that many people consume during stressful times can actually cause anxiety. In Philadelphia, he is based.
Sugar is commonly found in soda pop and fruit juice. A 12-ounce can of soda, for example, can contain anywhere from 8 to 13 teaspoons of sugar, depending on the type. Many fruit juices are high in sugar, but they lack the fiber that fruits do. Fiber helps you avoid blood sugar spikes by slowing digestion.
Cakes, cookies, candy, and pies, to name a few.
Sugary foods can cause blood sugar spikes, which are linked to anxiety, according to Michalczyk. Avoid foods that have been added sugar, or save them for special occasions. Try fresh fruit such as blueberries, peaches, plums, cherries, persimmons, and nectarines if you want something sweet.
Meats that have been processed, cheese, and ready-made meals
Inflammation is linked to these foods, which can cause anxiety. These foods are also low in fiber and are thought to disrupt the gut microbiome, according to Devine. The gut microbiome is a diverse collection of microorganisms that live in the gut.
The proper functioning of the body is aided by a healthy microbiome.
Sweeteners made from artificial sources
Artificial sweeteners, as well as diet soda or other sugar-free drinks, have an effect on anxiety, according to Naidoo. She claims that while they may be fine for some people, they have a significant impact on others.
According to an article she co-authored in the Feb. 12 issue of Frontiers in Psychiatry, “artificial sweeteners have been linked to neuropsychiatric problems, including anxiety.”
Smoothies made with fruits and vegetables but no protein
Smoothies are an excellent way to consume the nutrients found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, if your smoothie only contains fruit or vegetables and no protein, your blood sugar level may spike and fall, which can cause anxiety, according to Michalczyk.
If you’re making a smoothie, include protein-rich ingredients like Powdered protein, Seeds, and nuts.
Coffee, tea, and energizing beverages
Caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks, can make you feel anxious. “The more caffeine you consume, the greater chance of anxiety flaring,” Devine says. According to research, the effects are strongest in people who drink more than 5 cups of coffee per day.
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Adenosine receptors in the peripheral and central nervous systems are activated by caffeine. According to Devine, adenosine is involved in mediating the body’s fight-or-flight response.
Although gluten is rarely mentioned in relation to anxiety, there may be a link. “There is a lot of evidence that gluten is something that people with anxiety should think about cutting out or cutting back on to see if they feel better,” Naidoo says.
Gluten is also a problem for people who have non-celiac sensitivity, which is a condition similar to celiac disease. “I try not to demonize ingredients, so I don’t usually ask people to eliminate food groups and things like that,” she says. “At the same time, however, there is a link to anxiety.”
According to Michalczyk, some people believe that alcoholic beverages, which are depressants, can help them relax. However, this strategy can backfire because drinking alcohol can cause insomnia and blood sugar spikes, especially if consumed on an empty stomach.
Excessive alcohol consumption can result in dehydration and physical hangover symptoms, both of which can cause anxiety. She claims that hangover symptoms such as dehydration, poor sleep, B vitamin depletion, and the alcohol detox process can all contribute to feelings of anxiety and worry.
Even if a food does not taste sweet, it still contains sugar. “These days, we find added and refined sugars in so many foods,” says Naidoo. “They’re often hidden in savory foods like salad dressings, store-bought tomato sauces, and condiments like ketchup,” says the author. She claims that hidden sugar in foods can “really drive anxiety.” “So keeping an eye out for those and being cautious about what you eat becomes critical.”