Foods to avoid if you suffer from anxiety

Some health problems improve with the adoption of dietary guidelines. Recently, the relationship between diet and mood is also known. Therefore, many people wonder if there are foods to avoid in case of anxiety.

Knowing what is beneficial or harmful is helpful in improving quality of life and obtaining better treatment results. In the following article we reveal the latest findings on eating and anxiety, a growing condition in the modern world.

What is anxiety and how is it related to eating?

Generalized anxiety disorder is a common and often disabling illness. It is characterized by the appearance of fear and excessive worry in relation to common events or problems.

Anxiety is accompanied by some physical symptoms, such as palpitations, muscle tension, chest tightness, irritability, or difficulty concentrating. With an increasing incidence, in some cases it can clearly affect social, work and personal relationships.

Several studies suggest that there is a relationship between optimal nutrition and better mental health outcomes. A Mediterranean-style diet, characterized by the presence of olive oil, fruits and vegetables, fish and nuts, seems to have a protective effect.

Unlike, there is a negative relationship between diet western and episodes of anxiety and depression. This way of eating is gaining adherents, especially among the adolescent population. It is characterized by the presence of fast food, fried foods, sweets, refined flours, processed meat and few vegetables.

Some of the possible explanations are the ability of certain foods to create a pro-oxidative and inflammatory environment. Also the lack of basic and positive nutrients, such as zinc, folates and magnesium.

Either way, diet clearly influences mood and mental health. Some eating patterns can improve symptoms.

A diet based on fried foods, refined flours and fast food could be prone to increase anxiety symptoms.

Discover: Physical pain and anxiety, what is their relationship?

What kinds of foods should you avoid if you suffer from anxiety?

Many of the people who live with anxiety resort to therapies to manage their symptoms. And having regard to the scientific data that we will present, It seems that removing the following foods from the diet can help improve the situation.


There are many people who consume a coffee in the morning. Taking moderate doses of caffeine is considered safe and has benefits for the body. But it also has its downside.

As stated by the American Psychiatric Association, too much caffeine can have side effects, such as irritability, nervousness and insomnia problems.

High doses of more than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily can lead to anxiety, excitement and agitation or worsen an existing anxiety disorder.

Energy drinks

These types of drinks should be eliminated from the diet at all costs, since they do not provide any benefit and have been linked to multiple health problems.

In reference to the nervous system, they are known for their ability to improve attention, mood and energy performance. But the effects of long-term use must also be taken into account.

At the moment, the scientific evidence shows a relationship between energy drink consumption and some mental problems. Among them is anxiety, but also depression and stress. However, further analysis is needed to determine whether there is causation.


Alcohol intake clearly affects the central nervous system. Although at first it can have a calming effect, little by little the ability to increase nervousness and disturb sleep is accentuated.

In addition, it changes the levels of serotonin and neurotransmitters in the brain, which worsens the feeling of anxiety.

Added sugar and artificial sweeteners

This ingredient is not advisable for those more prone to anxiety and depression problems. A post in the Scientific Reports revealed that a diet high in sugar could affect mood disorders in both men and women.


Little by little the evidence shows the negative effects of this type of food in the diet. In relation to mood and anxiety disorders, the problem lies in the ingredients of its composition.

Most of them have trans fat, saturated fat, and high amounts of salt, sugar, and refined flours. Therefore, it is considered that they are not very nutritious and high in energy foods.

As the authors of recent analyzes conclude, an unhealthy diet is significantly associated with more symptoms of anxiety and depression than a Mediterranean-type diet. It is known that this also influences the severity of symptoms.

Tips and recommended foods to avoid anxiety

One of the premises to take into account is that there is no diet to cure anxiety. However, experts agree that some dietary guidelines are more favorable for managing the situation.

In an article published by Harvard University, Uma Naidoo, a doctor of psychiatry, lays the foundations of what a proper diet should be for this purpose. The main recommendations are the following:

  • Stay hydrated with the choice of water as the preferred drink.
  • Avoid skipping meals, as this destabilizes blood sugar levels.
  • Base the diet on fresh foods and mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber and complex carbohydrates allow better regulation of blood glucose, promoting a feeling of calm.
  • The incorporation of olive oil, fish, lean meat, legumes and nuts completes the vitamins and minerals necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Specific foods to reinforce in the diet

There are some specific foods that can be reinforced in the diet to improve the symptoms that are attributed to anxiety. Among them we find the following:

  • Products with magnesium: Leafy greens, such as spinach or chard, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, and brown rice. These provide good amounts of magnesium.
  • Presence of zinc: This mineral is to be found in foods such as oysters, cashews, pumpkin seeds, meat, and egg yolks.
  • Salmon: provides omega 3 fatty acids, whose function is to regulate the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters have calming and relaxing properties.
  • Probiotics: like sauerkraut, yogurt, or kefir. These can reduce anxiety. This is suggested by this study from the journal Psychiatry Research, although at the moment the exact mechanisms are unknown.
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spices: ginger and turmeric.

Consuming salmon and green vegetables ensures a supply of omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and zinc that are useful for anxiety.

Read more about blue fish Tuna vs. salmon: which is the best?

There are foods to avoid if you suffer from anxiety

Nutrition and mood are associated. And although the existing studies are few, a positive relationship is known between a healthy eating pattern and a lower risk of anxiety and depression problems.

As a general rule, it is advised that the products consumed are abundant in healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. While it is necessary to separate processed foods, high in calories and with added sugars.

These changes can improve feelings of well-being and mood, but do not interfere with medical treatment if there is one. Other positive changes include improving sleep habits, managing stress, and getting regular physical exercise.

Implementing these rules is never a substitute for the therapist's advice and guidelines.. On the contrary, it is advisable to implement each and every one of the changes made in the diet to better accommodate the needs of each person.