When we’re feeling anxious or depressed, most of us want to disappear into a bag of Lays chips, soda water, and chocolates. But while these comforting foods are nice to munch on when you’re down, they can actually make anxiety and depression worse, making the symptoms even more unbearable. There are also some foods and drinks that you may think are good for you, but can actually make your mood worse. Here’s what to avoid eating and drinking when your mental health isn’t at its best.
1. Fruit juice
Many people believe that fruit juice is “natural” and therefore will immediately boost your mental health. But it’s the opposite: without the fiber, it’s essentially healthy sugar water that will send you crashing and burning. Once that sugar high wears off, you’ll be even hungrier and in a worse mood. Eat the fruit whole or make a smoothie, but if you’re thirsty, drink water first.
2. Regular and diet soda
Soda is the enemy of anxiety and depression, even though it can make you happy the moment you drink an ice-cold Sprite or Coke. In fact, sugary drinks are directly linked to depression, and they will spike your blood sugar. Drink club soda instead! The same goes for diet soda, which can still contain caffeine and therefore make anxiety worse.
3. Light/sugar-free dressing
These salad dressings are no longer healthy. These sodas are sweetened with aspartame, which is an ingredient commonly found in diet sodas and linked to both depression and anxiety. Just make it at home from scratch! All you need is some lemon and olive oil. Just know: any time you see a sugar-free product in the fridge or on the shelves, it’s a scam.
4. Hydrogenated oil
Don’t know what it is? Everything is fried. Fried mozzarella sticks, fried chicken, fried calamari and our biggest temptation: French fries. These foods can cause and worsen depression. Food is commonly fried in hydrogenated oil, which contains trans fats and can clog arteries (and the brain).
5. White bread
Say no to toast and white bread on sandwiches. Swap it for a multi-grain or whole-wheat option instead. Processed white flour immediately converts to blood sugar, boosting energy before sending you into a downward spiral. Even better? Go with rice.
6. Frozen products
They are a dream come true for a busy weeknight or lazy weekend. Especially when there are so many dietary options like lean cuisine, right? Incorrect. Any frozen food contains a lot of salt, and high sodium levels can upset your neurological balance. It can contribute to depression and even interfere with your immune system’s response. Salt causes fluid retention and bloating, which also contributes to depression related to body image.
7. I am a willow tree
Soy sauce is high in gluten, which is not good for our digestive system and can cause allergic reactions. Even for those without celiac disease, soy sauce is high in gluten, which can significantly increase the likelihood of depression. Maybe skip sushi night.
8. Coffee or caffeine
You may find it impossible to give up your daily cup of java, but caffeine consumption is pretty much making your anxiety manifest or worse than it already is. In people with social anxiety, caffeine can cause extreme nervousness even in small amounts. Caffeine also interferes with the absorption of vitamin D and B vitamins, which balance your mood. Opt for chamomile instead.
9. Fermented or aged products
If you’re feeling down, why not have some cheese, wine and pickles? If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you may want to wait on this charcuterie board. These foods are filled with histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter and a byproduct of the creation of fermented or pickled foods. They can disrupt hormones and the nervous system, as well as cause anxiety and insomnia.
10. Canned soup
Homemade soup tastes better, but it’s also a lot better for your mind. Many foods packaged in cans and plastic containers contain BPA or bisphenol. BPA is a chemical that can destabilize your mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters. It does this by changing genes in the stress control area of your brain. Children who consume a lot of BPA are more likely to get sick. Try to use brands that use BPA-free packaging.
Bottom line: Eat more whole foods, not short cuts. Junk food can seem cathartic, but taking a holistic approach is the best way to get better and make sure your mood stays stable, calm and healthy.