5 foods that can negatively impact your mental health

We rarely think about food in relation to our mental health. We worry that it leads to health problems, such as cardiovascular OR gastrointestinal problems, but did you know that different foods and drinks can exacerbate anxiety spikes and even bouts of depression?

Indeed, there are foods and beverages that therapists and psychiatrists, who have spent their careers counseling people on mental well-being, typically avoid or consume in moderation for the sake of their mental health.

Take this knowledge with a grain of salt. These foods and drinks may be consumed once in a while and not be related to negative mental health consequences. Just remember that, as with everything, moderation is key.

Multiple Cups Of Coffee Or Espresso

For some people, too much caffeine can have a negative impact on anxiety. \”If a person is prone to feeling anxious or has multiple stressors, know that excessive caffeine causes an increased cortisol response and can lead to adrenal fatigue, a recipe for persistent stress and burnout, not to mention of sleep problems,” said the licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Britney Jones.

Research suggests that consuming more than 250 milligrams of caffeine per day (that\’s about 2 1/2 cups) could have a negative impact on anxiety, so Jones does his best to keep his coffee consumption below that amount. And for people who get jitters or anxiety spikes from coffee, consuming caffeine in the form of matcha can be a great alternative since it gives many people a feeling of calm alertness thanks to a compound called L-Theanine.

Diet drink

If you\’re looking for your mental health this summer, you may want to minimize your diet soda intake. \”Everyone loves a cold diet soda on a hot summer day, but the health issues outweigh the benefits,\” She said Dr. Jacques Jospitre, Jr., a board-certified psychiatrist and co-founder of SohoMD. “While we know that high-sugar sodas aren\’t great for our health, diet sodas may actually be even worse. Many of these contain phenylalanine, that is an added chemical well known to mess with the neurochemistry of the brain blocking the correct production of serotonin and dopamine, two molecules we need for a good mood”.

Additionally, these drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame,” which is a known neurotoxin and it can increase stress hormones such as cortisolas well as increasing the amount of free radicals in the brain,\” Jospitre said.


While a drink or two once in a while isn\’t the worst thing, Danielle Tucci, licensed career counselor and founder of Living better therapeutic solutionsshe said she does her best to avoid alcohol when considering her mental health.

\”While alcohol consumption is usually associated with social events, alcohol is a depressant and can lead to a negative mood or the dreaded \’anxiety\’,” Tucci explained. \”This refers to the time when your body is recovering from a hangover and the stress hormone, cortisol, is elevated.\”

Highly processed foods

Aura De Los Santosa clinical and educational psychologist, said that when she eats certain processed foods—in her case, pancake mix from the grocery store—it causes anxiety spikes.

\”One food that increases my anxiety spike is the box of pancake flour from the supermarket,\” she said. “I like to eat pancakes for breakfast, but I have seen how my body becomes inflamed and how anxious it is when I eat these pancakes two days in a row. I have trouble concentrating, my mood changes and I don\’t feel calm. The swelling is very uncomfortable and it negatively affects my mental health.

Ultra-processed foods it can alter the bacteria in the gut. This bacterium interacts with our immune system, which ultimately leads to chronic inflammation. Inflammation can cause swellingas De Los Santos noted, but it can, too contribute to depression.

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A psychologist said that pancake mix from the supermarket increases his anxiety levels.

Matt Glowiak, a licensed professional clinical consultant, said even the \”healthier options\” in the frozen food department could lead to signs of depression.

\”These meals contribute to inflammation in the gut, which is where most serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) is made,\” she said. “When serotonin is compromised, so is mental health. After eating \”healthy\” frozen dinners, I always felt like I ate something healthy and would have more energy in the short term, but then I would experience a meltdown and a combination of mild depression and anxiety. Now I stay away and choose to prepare whole foods.

Candies (and sugary foods in general)

Jason Phillips, a licensed clinical social worker, said she does her best to avoid the candy. \”I\’m not going to eat candy like Tootsie Rolls or candy corn,\” she said. \”This type of Halloween candy is very sugary and sugar increases inflammation in the body, which is related to depression.” A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that sugary and starchy foods could contribute to depression.

That said, consuming natural sugar, such as that found in fruit, is very different from that in candy. In fact, one study found that people who snack on fruit are less likely to report symptoms of depression. So while candy and other sources of refined carbohydrates might be bad for your mental health, not all sources of sugar are.

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