When we’re feeling anxious or depressed, most of us want to disappear into a bag of Lays chips, soda, and chocolates. But while those comfort foods feel good to indulge in when you’re bummed out, they can actually worsen anxiety and depression, making the symptoms even more unbearable. There are also some foods and drinks you might believe are healthy, but can actually bring your mood down significantly. Here’s what to avoid eating or drinking if your mental health isn’t at its best.
1. Fruit juice
A lot of people think fruit juice is “natural” and hence will boost your mental health immediately. But it’s the opposite: without fiber, it’s essentially healthy sugar-water that will lead you to a crash and burn scenario. After that sugar high wears off, you’ll be even hungrier and in a worse mood. Eat fruit whole or make a smoothie, but if you’re thirsty, drink water before anything else.
2. Regular and diet soda
Soda is the enemy of anxiety and depression, even though it might make you happy in the moment to chug an ice-cold Sprite or Cola. In fact, sugar-sweetened beverages are linked directly to depression, and they’ll spike your blood-sugar intensely. Instead, drink club soda! The same goes for diet soda, which can still contain caffeine and hence worsens anxiety.
3. Light/sugar-free dressing
These salad dressings aren’t healthier. These dressings are sweetened by aspartame, which is an ingredient commonly found in diet soda that is linked to both depression and anxiety. Just make it at home from scratch! All you need is some lemon and olive oil. Just know: whenever you see a sugar-free product in fridges or on shelves, this is the catch.
4. Hydrogenated oil
Not sure what this is? Everything fried. Fried mozzarella sticks, fried chicken, fried calamari, and our biggest temptation: French fries. These foods can cause and worsen depression. Foods are usually deep-fried in hydrogenated oil, which has trans fats and can clog arteries (and brain function).
5. White bread
Say no to toast and white bread on sandwiches. Instead, swap it for a multigrain or whole wheat option. Processed white flour converts to blood sugar immediately, spiking energy before sending you into a spiral of a crash. Even better? Go with rice.
6. Frozen foods
They’re a dream come true for a busy weeknight or a lazy weekend. Especially when there are so many diet-friendly options like Lean Cuisine, right? Wrong. Any frozen meals contain loads of extra salt, and high sodium levels can throw your neurological balance out of whack. It can promote depression and even interfere with your immune system response. Salt causes you to retain fluid and bloat, which also promoted body image related depression.
7. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is heavy in gluten, which isn’t great for our digestive systems and can cause allergic reactions. Even for those who aren’t celiacs, soy sauce is high in gluten which can lead to a significantly higher chance of depression. Maybe skip that sushi night.
8. Coffee or caffeine
It might feel impossible for you to give up your daily cup of java, but consuming caffeine is pretty much asking for your anxiety to make itself present, or get worse than it already is. For people with social anxiety, caffeine can make them feel extremely nervous, even in small amounts. Caffeine also stops you from absorbing Vitamin D and B vitamins, both of which balance your mood. Opt for chamomile instead.
9. Fermented or aged foods
When you’re feeling bad, why not hunker down with some cheese, wine, and pickled goods? If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you might want to hold off on that charcuterie board. These foods are filled with histamines. Histamines are neurotransmitters and byproducts of creating fermented or pickled foods. They can aggravate your hormones and nervous system, along with triggering anxiety and sleeplessness.
10. Canned soup
Homemade soup tastes better, but it’s also a lot better for your sanity. 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 altering genes in the stress-control area of your brain. Kids who consume lots of BPA are more likely to develop anxiety. Try to eat brands that use BPA-free packaging.
At the end of the day: eat more whole foods, and don’t shortcut. Junk food might feel cathartic, but taking a holistic approach is the best way to practice wellness and make sure that your mood stays stable, peaceful, and healthy.