Can Certain Foods Cause Anxiety? Top Foods to Avoid If You Have Anxiety or Depression

Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million Americans. And almost everyone has experienced anxiety as a natural reaction to certain situations.

If you suffer from chronic stress or anxiety, you may spend a significant portion of your daily life coping with it through techniques such as therapy, mindfulness, exercise, and anti-anxiety medication.

However, did you know that certain foods we consume can trigger anxiety?

This is not to say that these tools and approaches are not necessary for overcoming anxiety; they are frequently beneficial additions to any individual’s lifestyle.
However, if anxiety continues to have an effect on your life, it may be worthwhile to cast a glance down at your plate.

Continue reading to learn about five foods that cause anxiety and what to eat instead.

1. Alcoholic beverages

Whether you believe it or not, the beverage you’re drinking to alleviate your social anxiety is actually exacerbating it.

“While alcohol may appear to calm your nerves, it can have a detrimental effect on hydration and sleep, both of which can exacerbate anxiety symptoms when they are suppressed,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of “Belly Fat for Dummies.”

Alcohol depletes serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, aggravating anxiety. Additionally, once the alcohol wears off, you may experience increased anxiety.

Consuming alcohol in moderation — or approximately two servings per day — is typically safe, as long as your doctor gives you the green light.

Attempt a Substitute: There is no true substitute for alcohol.
Consider nonalcoholic beer if you enjoy the flavor but do not require the side effects.
Specialty drinks, such as mocktails or sparkling water with fancy bitters, can also be effective substitutes in social situations.

2. Caffeine

They want to take away your alcohol first, and now they want to take away your coffee?

Unfortunately, yes.

According to the National Coffee Association, 62% of Americans consume coffee daily, and the average daily consumption is slightly more than three cups per coffee drinker.
However, our favorite morning ritual may be causing more harm than good.

“Excessive caffeine consumption not only increases anxiety and nervousness, but also decreases the body’s production of the feel-good chemical serotonin, resulting in a depressed mood,” Palinski-Wade explains.

Caffeine is generally considered safe in small doses.

However, excessive doses can have undesirable side effects, including anxiety and nervousness.

A research

According to a study, participants who consumed 300 milligrammes of caffeine daily reported nearly twice the amount of stress.
A large (“grande”) coffee at Starbucks contains approximately 330 milligrammes of caffeine.

Additionally, keep in mind that several supplements and medications, including St. John’s Wort, ginseng, and certain headache medications, contain caffeine and may contribute to anxious feelings.


Matcha tea is an excellent substitute for coffee if you’re looking for a smooth buzz without the jitters.
This is due to the L-theanine, which is well-known for its sedative-like properties.

3. Foods that have been aged, fermented, or cultured

A plate of meat and cheese accompanied by a glass of red wine sounds incredibly relaxing, doesn’t it?

Yes, in theory, but not so much according to science.

When whole foods such as beef, milk, and grapes are cured, fermented, and cultured, they become gourmet (see: steak, cheese, and wine).

However, bacteria degrade the food proteins to produce biogenic amines, one of which is histamine.

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormone production, the cardiovascular and nervous systems, and other bodily functions.

It has been shown to cause anxiety and insomnia in susceptible individuals.


Always choose fresh, whole foods to minimize histamine intolerance.
On meat and fish, look for the “packed on” date.

The less time it takes from the point of origin to your table, the better.

4. Subtle sugar addition

There is no way to avoid sugar entirely, as it occurs naturally in many of the foods we enjoy, such as fruit.

However, added sugar contributes to general anxiety.

“Added sugars send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride of spikes and crashes, and along with it, your energy levels fluctuate,” Palinski-Wade explains.

“When blood sugar levels plummet, your mood deteriorates and anxiety levels can skyrocket.”

The body produces insulin to assist in absorbing excess glucose and stabilizing blood sugar levels, but a sugar rush causes the body to work excessively hard to return to normal, resulting in the highs and lows.

Consuming excessive amounts of refined sugar can elicit feelings of anxiety, irritability, and sadness.

The foods that contain added sugar that you should avoid or limit do not all resemble desserts.

Ketchup, certain salad dressings, pastas, and white bread all contain a significant amount of added sugar.

Fortunately, if you avoid processed sugar, you do not have to deny your sweet tooth.
Natural sugar substitutes include stevia, erythritol, and yacon syrup.
Consume fruits and naturally sweet vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, on your plate.

5. Nondairy creamer in the conventional sense

If you’re going to eliminate coffee, you might as well eliminate creamer as well.
Many people are attempting to reduce their dairy consumption these days.

While substituting a conventional nondairy creamer may appear to be an option, these substitutes contain hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, which are high in LDL cholesterol and can lower HDL cholesterol.

These fats have been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

Alternatively, if you’re drinking decaf but crave something creamy, whole foods are always the better option.

Milk and cream are superior to nondairy creamers. Consider almond or soy milk if you’re avoiding dairy.

Foods to Avoid

Fruit Juice

The fiber in whole fruit satisfies you and slows the rate at which your blood absorbs energy. Without that fiber, you’re simply drinking nutrient-deficient sugar water that can quickly energize you — and then quickly dehydrate you.

This can leave you feeling hungry and irritable — “hangry.” That will do nothing but to alleviate anxiety or depression. Consume your fruit in its entirety. Consume water when you are thirsty.


There is no way for you to win here:
It contains all of the sugar found in fruit juice but none of the nutrition. Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, are also associated with depression.

If you’re craving a soda, substitute seltzer water with a splash of juice. It’ll satisfy your bubbly craving without overwhelming you with unnecessary ingredients.

Diet Soda

Without sugar, there is no issue, correct? Not precisely.

While you won’t experience the energy crash associated with too much sugar, diet soda may make you depressed. Indeed, it may make you feel worse than its sugary cousin.
Caffeine in excess, as found in many sodas, can also be detrimental to anxiety.


Are you serious?! Toast?! Yes, if the bread is white.

After you consume it, the highly processed white flour from which it is made rapidly converts to blood sugar.

This can result in energy ups and downs, which can be detrimental to anxiety and depression. You may have your toast — and consume it as well. Simply use a whole-grain bread.


You may be aware that certain pre-packaged dressings and marinades contain sugar, which is frequently listed as “high-fructose corn syrup.”

However, what about dressings that are “light” or “sugar-free”? Many rely on aspartame, an artificial sweetener associated with anxiety and depression. Check the ingredients or, better yet, make your own dressing.


It’s primarily tomatoes, correct? Yes, and sugar, copious amounts of sugar.
To be precise, four grammes per tablespoon. Additionally, the “light” products may contain artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to anxiety and depression.
Instead, make your own tomato salsa.

Are you looking for a little kick? Add a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.

Energy Drinks

They can result in abnormal heart rhythms, anxiety, and sleep difficulties. That’s because it’s not always easy to determine the extremely high caffeine content of ingredients like guarana.

These beverages frequently contain a high concentration of sugar or artificial sweeteners as well. If you are thirsty, drink water. Are you looking for a sugar rush?

Consume a small piece of fruit.


Isn’t it the sugar? True, but that is not all.

Additionally, it contains approximately 2 grammes of “trans fats” per serving. They are associated with depression.

They are also found in fried foods, pizza dough, cakes, cookies, and crackers.
Verify your labels. If you must consume fat, consume the “good” kind found in fish, olive oil, nuts, and avocado.

These can help you feel better.

Soy Sauce

This one is specifically for gluten-intolerant individuals. It is also found in prepackaged foods such as soy sauce.

Gluten sensitivity can result in anxiety or depression in those who are sensitive to it.
Additionally, it can cause you to feel sluggish and unproductive. Examine labels and avoid.


We all enjoy them, and occasional treats can improve your mood. However, for your information, doughnuts contain a variety of unhealthy fats, snow-white flour with little fiber to slow absorption, and a high amount of added sugar.

Therefore, if you must, make them only on special occasions, not a routine.

Processed Food

You’re more likely to be anxious and depressed if you consume a lot of processed meat, fried food, refined cereals, candy, pastries, and high-fat dairy products.

A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish can help you maintain a more balanced state of health.