Worst foods for anxiety

Anxiety is disturbing and can affect our daily routine adversely. Which are the nine worst foods for anxiety?

Anxiety and nine worst foods for it

Here are the nine worst foods for anxiety


Alcohol in moderate amounts can calm a person. But in excessive amounts, it is excitatory. People with alcohol use disorder tend to be habitual drinkers and suffer its ill-effects. These affect not only the physical body but the mentation as well. About 15 million people including teens suffer from it according to the data of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Worst foods for anxiety
Alcohol (Source: Nutrition facts)

Artificial sweeteners

Slimmers love them because they have zero calories. And they provide sweetness to foods. But these sweeteners are not without risk. They affect moods and can make the user anxious. It could lead to neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Nutritional Neuroscience published an article in 2018 that revealed that aspartame, the non-nutritive sweetener can cause cognitive and behavioral problems. It can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression, headache, irritability, and learning issues. Aspartame has substances that lower the amount of the neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. It elevates cortisol levels and produces free radicals. This it has negative effects on brain function.

Cakes, cookies, candies and added sugar foods

August 2019 review in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews showed that high sugars affect emotions and moods. They impair cognition and cause anxiety or depression. Additionally, Scientific Reports carried an article in 2017 that showed that sugars can cause recurring mood swings in people. Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist from Boston says:

We find added and refined sugars in so many foods these days,”

“Often you don’t realize they’re in savory foods like salad dressings, store-bought tomato sauces and things like ketchup. Watching for those and being careful about what you’re consuming becomes so important.”

Maggie Michalczyk, dietitian from the greater Chicago area advises to eat fresh fruit to satisfy sugar cravings.

Coffee, tea, energy drinks

Worst foods for anxiety
Coffee (Source: Pinterest)

All these drinks have caffeine that increases anxiety. This activates adenosine receptors that causes fight or flight response. It can also precipitate panic attacks. A 2015 study in Journal of Psychopharmacology showed that it causes stress in kids.

Fruit and veggie smoothies with no protein

Fruit and veggie smoothies with high glycemic index could cause anxiety. Adding protein source in them lessens the risk. Nuts, seeds, and green vegetables are good additions.

Fried foods

These oils induce inflammation and hence anxiety. The omega-6 fatty acids are responsible for the inflammation. The linoleic acid is converted to arachidonic acid that causes inflammation. A 2017 study in Neuropsychopharmacology states this inflammation induces anxiety.

Prefer baked or air fried foods.


A February 2015 paper in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine talked about a possible connection between gluten and anxiety. This mental state is seen more in celiac disease patients who do not adhere to gluten free diet. Uma explains:

“There’s a good amount of evidence showing that gluten is something that individuals with anxiety should consider maybe cutting out, or cutting back on, to see if they might have an improvement,”

Processed meats, cheese and ready-to-eat meals

Worst foods for anxiety
Processed foods (Source: Runner’s world)

These foods are low in fiber and upset gut microbiome. Moreover, they induce inflammation. And hence lead to anxious feelings.

Public Health Nutrition published a study in July 2022 that said that those eating ultra processed foods had higher chances of mood changes.

Also, read Foods for the changing moods: which is the best for each mood?

Sugary drinks

These have high levels of sugars and cause mood swings. This is due to blood sugar spikes and crashes.