8 Foods That Cause Anxiety (And What To Eat Instead)


Does it feel like you’ve tried everything to get rid of your anxiety and nothing has worked?

You’re not alone.

Millions of people suffer from anxiety disorders that range from mild to debilitating. No matter what level of anxiety you experience, you deserve to start living an anxiety-free life. And what you eat can have a big impact on reducing your anxiety symptoms.

Your diet could be the reason your anxiety symptoms are not improving or getting worse.

So if you’re ready to make a change and say goodbye to anxiety, read this list below of 8 foods that cause anxiety.

1. Fried Food

So this isn’t exactly one food – it’s more of a category of food. Regardless, if you’re trying to get your anxiety symptoms under control, it’s best to avoid fried food. 

Common fried foods include:

  • French fries
  • Fried chicken
  • Onion Rings
  • Donuts
  • Chicken wings
  • Egg rolls
  • Hushpuppies
  • Fried shrimp, clams, fish

While delicious, these foods can be difficult on your digestive system. Fried food also contains more fat than other prepared foods. A diet high in fat is linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.

The lack of nutrients in fried food can make anxiety symptoms worse. Instead, eating a balanced diet with fresh foods can improve your mental health. 

2. Caffeine

Again, caffeine isn’t a single food item, but it can make symptoms of an anxiety disorder worse. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make a person feel jittery, nervous, and anxious.

So as you are preparing your diet for anxiety, skip the items below:

  • Coffee
  • Dark chocolate
  • Energy drinks
  • Black tea
  • Hot chocolate
  • Soda
  • Ice cream

Aim to get more sleep instead of using caffeine for energy. Reducing your caffeine intake or removing caffeine completely from your diet is a great place to start if you want to improve your anxiety.

3. White Bread

White bread and other highly processed forms of gluten can make anxiety symptoms worse. Processed carbohydrates may give you a surge of energy immediately but then wear off quickly. This rapid change in energy can make feels of anxiousness worse.

Other carbohydrates to avoid include pasta, crackers, and white rice.

4. Ketchup

Have you ever looked at how much sugar there is in ketchup? Well, it’s a lot. And unfortunately foods with a high-concentration of sugar can make anxiety worse.

Sugar levels in your body affect the level of energy you have as well as your mood. Spikes in sugar can cause mood swings that trigger anxiety symptoms. So it’s best to avoid items high in sugar, especially sauces like ketchup.

Here are a few other high-sugar sauces to avoid:

  • Syrup
  • Honey mustard
  • BBQ sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Low-fat salad dressing

5. Milk and Cheese

Dairy products like milk and cheese can make your anxiety symptoms worse. Foods that trigger anxiety are often the ones that the body has a hard time digesting.

Most adults have a hard time processing foods high in dairy, especially traditional cow’s milk. Dairy can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.

And in addition to the digestive symptoms, dairy can make anxiety symptoms worse. If you are absolutely unwilling to give up dairy, try to consume it in small portions to avoid negative side effects.

6. Alcohol

Consuming alcohol can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. Alcohol effects the chemicals in your brain that are responsible for emotions.

When you drink, especially in excess, your brain has a hard time regulating the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is also known as the the happiness chemical.

While some people use alcohol as a way to calm their nerves, it can actually have the opposite effect. Alcohol prevents neurotransmitters from working the way they should. 

You should also avoid alcohol if you are currently on any medications for anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about drinking alcohol while using your anxiety medication.

7. Sweet Treats

A piece of birthday cake now and again is fine, but if you want to keep your anxiety in control, avoid sweets that are high in sugar. Frosting, cookies, and brownies can have enough sugar to mess with your mood and energy levels.

Other sweet treats to eat in moderation include:

  • Pastries
  • High-sugar breakfast cereals
  • Donuts
  • Candy

You don’t have to say goodbye to these items forever, but be careful how much and how often you consume them.

8. Cured or Aged Foods

Certain meat and cheese products are cured or aged to add flavor and keep them preserved. But during the process the chemical makeup of the food changes. Bacteria breaks down and can release hormones that may trigger anxiety symptoms.

Consuming cured or fermented foods has also been linked to insomnia which can be an issue for people with anxiety. So if you want to feel less anxious and sleep better, here are some of the foods you should avoid:

  • Salami
  • Smoked meat
  • Chorizo
  • Aged cheeses (parmesan, gouda, cheddar, etc.)

Foods that Help Anxiety

Now you know which foods to avoid if you have anxiety. But what about foods that make anxiety better? Eating a balanced diet with fresh, whole foods can improve your anxiety symptoms over time.

Here is a quick list of foods to try if you want to help your anxiety:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, trout)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Green tea
  • Pumpkin seeds

Along with these foods you should always try to stay properly hydrated throughout the day.

Say Goodbye to Foods that Cause Anxiety

Ready to make a serious change to improve your anxiety?


Use the tips above to plan a new anxiety-friendly diet today. And remember that the foods that cause anxiety may taste good but they aren’t worth it. You can live a life free of anxiety by building a healthier diet plan and sticking with it.

Good luck!

If you are suffering from anxiety or another mental health issue, contact us and see how we can help you live a healthier, happier life. 

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