When we're feeling overly stressed out, we usually think about the tasks we have to get done or what is going on in our lives. We often don't think about our diet, but if you are feeling especially anxious, you may be eating foods that are making you stressed. Just as certain foods can help improve your mood, other foods can make you worried and anxious, so it's important to keep a diet that will leave you feeling elevated and motivated rather than down and distracted.
"Foods that tend to be higher in added sugars, caffeine, and refined flours can exacerbate stress," says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD over email. "The crucial point to remember is that a variety-filled diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and lean protein sources will help you feel your best."
Research surrounding the link between diet and mental health is still new, but the number of studies are growing. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who ate a typical Western diet filled with processed and fast foods are more likely to be depressed and anxious than those who ate a more traditional diet filled with meat and vegetables.
If you think your diet may be contributing to your worries, consider ditching these six foods that can make you stressed.
Ever had a cup of coffee, only to feel jittery and anxious after consuming it? Caffeine can increase cortisol levels, which in turn can exacerbate existing stress or even create stress when none existed prior, according to the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.
Eating foods high in sugar causes a drastic rise and drop in blood sugar, and low blood sugar levels cause an increase in stress hormones such as epinephrine, according to Healthline. A study from Emory University also found that a diet high in fructose can change how the body responds to stress and worsens anxiety.
You might be tempted to turn to a glass of wine to get rid of your worries, but alcohol can actually make stress worse. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that drinking alcohol before a stressful situation actually prolongs feelings of stress.
4. Trans Fat
Avoid foods high in trans fat, such as french fries, potato chips, and other processed choices. A study done on rats showed that prolonged consumption of trans fat affected their brain, leaving them more prone to anxiety-like symptoms, according to a study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
5. White Flour
Like sugar, refined flour can cause a drastic change in levels of your blood sugar. In addition, some people have sensitivities to gluten, which can cause symptoms such as anxiety or panic attacks, according to the journal Psychiatric Quarterly. Stick to whole grains to manage your blood sugar levels, and talk to your doctor if you think you may have a gluten intolerance.
6. Salty Foods
Too much salt can deplete your body of potassium, an essential nutrient for functioning of the nervous system, according to Livestrong.com. In addition, salty foods can make you thirsty, and dehydration can cause moodiness and fatigue, which can contribute to your stress, according to a study done by the Institute of Environmental Medicine.
Avoiding these foods such help lower your stress levels, but it's also important to exercise and sleep well to manage your mental health as well.
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