Published on September 17, 2021

6 Foods That Can Cause Anxiety

Have you ever felt your mood plummet, heard your heart beat too loudly, or have your stress levels shot up for no apparent reason? What could possibly be the cause?

If you’re into comfort eating, you may be dismayed to learn that many of the foods we consume for the sake of comfort are harmful to us and can even worsen anxiety.

Before we get into what these foods are, let’s get a better understanding of what anxiety is.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, dread, and fear. It’s our body’s response to stress. 

Anxiety can manifest as psychological and physiological symptoms that include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feelings of dread and panic
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts and uncontrollable overthinking

This is a general list of symptoms. Since anxiety and its manifestations differ from one person to the next, you may experience other signs of anxiety

Foods That Can Cause Anxiety

Food can impact your mood, behavior, and stress levels. If you have a diet that regularly includes any of the following, perhaps it’s time to reassess your food choices.


Eating food with high sugar content is harmful because your body turns it into insulin that can negatively affect your arteries. Your arterial walls become inflamed,  stiff, and thick. This puts unnecessary and excessive stress on your heart which can damage it. It can cause heart-related problems like heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.

It’s also habit-forming because consuming sugar can cause you to want more. Excessive sugar consumption messes with your blood sugar levels and can trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream.

Consuming large amounts of processed sugar can potentially lead to feelings of lethargy, irritability, and mood swings that can spiral into anxiety or panic attacks. 

If you think you may be consuming too much sugar, take a closer look at what you eat and consider cutting back on sugar-rich foods. Ketchup, pasta sauces, salad dressings, and breakfast cereal are notorious for containing a lot of sugar.

Fried Food

Food like pizza, fried chicken, and fries may taste good but they’re hard to digest properly. When food doesn’t get digested, it can trigger gastrointestinal issues. Bad gut health also results in long-term health issues like nausea, acid reflux, and vomiting.

Additionally, fried food is high in saturated fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils which can potentially clog arteries. It’s no surprise that fried food has been linked to heart disease and obesity — two major health problems faced by Americans today. As if that weren’t bad enough, regular consumption of fried food can also lead to hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. 

More often than not, what goes inside your gut manifests in your mood and behavior leading to anxiety and depression.

If you find yourself unable to eliminate fried food altogether, make a conscious effort to moderate your consumption of them.


Are you drinking alcohol to calm your nerves? We hate to break it to you but it’s time to stop. While they may trigger temporary pleasant and euphoric feelings, alcohol is a depressant over the long run.

This beverage can make your anxiety worse by messing with your sleep and dehydrating you. It can potentially raise your anxiety levels and may even result in depression. 

Don’t want to give up alcohol? Consume it in moderation. Two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is a good limit. 

Processed Food

Processed food like burgers, sausages, cakes, and hotdogs may increase your risk for depression. They contain high amounts of salt and sugar which can cause inflammation in the body.

Inflammation may not sound like a big deal, but it has the potential to affect your behavior and motor activity, among other important brain functions. Since processed food is low in fiber, it disturbs the gut microbiome which can hinder normal body functions. This can cause chronic anxiety and mood disorders.

The next time you feel sad or depressed, make a smoothie or cut up some fresh fruits instead of indulging in processed food.

High-Sodium Food

Just like sugar, sodium can harm your mental and physical health. If you’re on a specific diet, take a close look at the ingredients that go into your “fat-free foods.” More often than not, they contain exorbitantly high levels of sodium.

Sodium can mess up your neurological functioning, interfere with your immune system response, and contribute to depression, fatigue, fluid retention, and bloating. 


Sixty-two percent of Americans drink coffee every day, but did you know that caffeine can also be harmful? 

In addition to making you jittery and nervous, caffeine can interfere with your sleep which is essential for your mental well-being 

It also inhibits the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone in our bodies. When serotonin levels are suppressed, it can dampen your mood and lead to depression. 

Taking these effects into consideration, maybe it’s time to trade in your cup of brew for decaf.

Final Thoughts

How many of the items in our list are you taking regularly? Now that you know that what you eat contributes to your mental state, it may be a good time to take a step back and re-examine your food choices.

If you need to eliminate many of these foods from your diet, consider cutting back a little at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Big changes need to be introduced gradually so that you can stick to them and achieve your goals.

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