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Foods that Increase Anxiety

Most people can identify stressors in their lives that increase anxiety: paying bills, looking for a new job, ending a relationship, for example. However, some people might be surprised to learn that food can significantly impact our mood and increase anxiety.

Eating foods rich in protein, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are known to fight depression and other mood disorders. However, on the flip side, eating the wrong kinds of food can cause depression, anxiety and worsen existing symptoms.

If you have panic attacks or suffer from a mood disorder, it’s helpful to identify which foods may trigger or exacerbate symptoms. As a general rule, the following 5 foods should be avoided if you suffer from anxiety.

1. Coffee

Coffee can worsen existing anxiety, and cause it in people who don’t normally suffer from it. Caffeine increases cortisol levels (one of our “fight or flight” hormones), which in turn makes you feel stressed even when there is no external stressor. According to research, lower intakes of coffee (less than 6 cups per day) has been linked to less depressive symptoms.

2. Alcohol

Anxiety sufferers should avoid alcohol according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which found that alcohol may worsen mood and contribute to anxiety.

3. Sugar

Often people reach for sugary foods like cookies and candy when dealing with a mood disturbance. While sweets feel soothing in the moment, sugar actually exacerbates negative feelings. A diet high in sugar causes spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, which can wreak havoc on your mood, and contribute to panic attacks.

4. Trans Fat

It turns out trans fats found in foods like French fries and packaged snacks are not only bad for your health, but for your mood as well. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition examined the brains of rats and found that prolonged consumption of trans fat led to more anxiety-like symptoms.

5. Gluten

While most people associate gluten intolerance with Celiac’s Disease, it turns out gluten can adversely affect some in other ways. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that those with gluten sensitivities are more prone to feeling anxious after eating wheat.

"It is never too late to be what you might have been." ~ George Eliot