Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders and depression. These mental health conditions are a response to certain situations and many people manage them with medication and therapy. But do you know that certain foods can trigger and aggravate anxiety and depression? If anxiety or depression is impacting your life, here are 5 foods to avoid:
- Caffeine: This known stimulant and psychoactive drug has been a factor for triggering the body’s acute stress response. A person who regularly consuming caffeine would feel nervous, light headed, jittery and anxious. High levels of caffeine can not only increase anxiety and nervousness, but also decrease the production of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the body and trigger depression, according to a Healthline article. Instead, opt for herbal or green tea or try matcha tea which has a relaxing effect and is a great alternative to coffee.
- Alcohol: Many people rely on alcohol to relax, but this can make their condition worse. Alcohol is a toxin that leads to improper mental and physical functioning by negatively impacting the levels of serotonin (the feel good chemical) in the brain Alcohol can affect hydration and sleep, both major factors that trigger anxiety symptoms when suppressed. According to the American Addiction Centers, alcohol backfires on your anxiety levels and can even trigger anxiety in prolonged users. Stay safe – drinking in moderation and with your doctor’s consent.
- Artificial and refined sugars: High serotonin levels worsen anxiety and sugar can raise your serotonin levels. Avoid added and processed sugars as it can trigger feelings of worry, irritability, and sadness and moreover, it’s not good for your health too. Condiments like ketchup, certain salad dressings, pastas, and white bread contain high levels of added sugar, so avoid them or minimize intake. Instead include Stevia, erythritol, and Yacon syrup which are natural substitutes for sugar. Fill your plate with fruit and naturally sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes.
- Processed foods: According to an EVERYDAY HEALTH article, researchers in London found that eating a diet of processed and fatty foods increases the risk for depression. The trans fats found in these processed or fried foods can aggravate and trigger anxiety and depression. Trans fats cause inflammation and interfere with the endothelial cells which line the blood cells. So stay away from fast food if you have symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Aged, fermented, and cultured foods: According to Healthline, aged, fermented and cured foods can trigger anxiety. During the process of fermentation or aging of food, bacteria break down the food proteins into biogenic amines, one of which is histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormones, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems, which can trigger anxiety and insomnia in some people.
The bottom line: make modifications in your diet by replacing foods that trigger and aggravate your anxiety and depression with foods that can soothe your mind and body. Opt for lots of fruit and vegetables in easy-to-eat portions, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds and lean protein like fish and chicken. As a recent Harvard Health article says eating “bad foods” occasionally is probably alright, but the golden rule is to stick to quality food to avoid depression and anxiety.