5 Foods That Can Make Anxiety Worse

Photo by Wu Yi

Photo by Wu Yi

Let’s just clear this up right out of the gate, the foods listed below will not give you anxiety. However, the physical response these foods cause in your body can trigger anxiety or make anxiety worse.

First, let’s explore how this can happen. I’m sure most of you have heard of the fight or flight response we get when faced with a stressful situation. Anxiety can come from us being stuck in this fight-or-flight response and we are no longer able to relax. Symptoms can include a rapid or increased heart rate, excessive sweating, increased cortisol levels, rising blood pressure and muscle tension.

Now, let’s explore how food can affect this. Anxiety is a stress response. Food can act as stimulants that gives us a stress response. So if you experience or are prone to anxiety, foods that trigger a stress response may increase your stress levels.

5 Foods that may increase anxiety


Coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated drinks, pre-workout and chocolate (not too mention most chocolate contains sugar, which we’ll get to later), all contain caffeine. Caffeine can increase heart rate and give you that “jittery” feeling. So if you are prone to anxiety, caffeine can make it worse. Personally, I have found that drinking coffee with a meal reduces any anxious feelings I get from caffeine.    


Sugar in all forms such as candy, sweets, drinks, even the “fake” sugars, create a huge spike in energy and then a crash. This can make your high’s high and your lows lower. So if you are trying to stabilize your mood + energy levels, staying away from sugar can help you even you out.   


Initially, alcohol can make you feel good, relaxed and social. However, alcohol affects neurotransmitters in your brain such as serotonin, which are your “feel good” chemicals. After the alcohol wears off, your body + brain has to adjust to the altered levels of neurotransmitter production, leaving you feeling anxious or depressed.

Refined flour

Refined flour is very similar to sugar when it comes to energy spikes + crashes. Refined flour — such as white breads, pastas, rice, pastries, etc. — is depleted of nutrients and fiber. This means there is nothing with it to offset the sugary effects of those foods. Again, combining refined flours with meat + veggies (protein + fiber), can help decrease the sugar effects. Or try switching to a whole grain dough.    


You may be somewhat surprised to see juice on this list of “not-so-healthy” foods. But the reality is, is that juice is just plain sugar — even if it is fresh + cold pressed. When you juice a fruit or vegetable you are removing all of the fiber which helps absorb some sugar. So you are left getting a buzz and then crashing later. So next time you want to go on that juice cleanse, think about eating a more balanced diet with lots of protein + fiber.

Again, these foods won’t give you anxiety, but they certainly won’t help it if you are an anxious person.

It is also important to notice that some people are more sensitive to foods than others. So there is no need to cut all of these foods out of your life, just try to be mindful of how these anxiety-triggering are affecting you.