Did you know that anxiety can be worsened by too much caffeine, but improved with green tea? Believe it or not, your mental health can be dependant on what you eat. 

Many people, especially women on diets, experience increased appetite due to their mental health condition. Some women with depression or anxiety choose to binge on “comfort foods”. Those with eating disorders can also engage in this unhealthy activity, making themselves feel worse later on. 

Although it’s perfectly okay to indulge once in a while, there are many foods that you should just downright avoid. These are foods that can exacerbate your symptoms, making you feel heavy, lethargic, or jittery. 

To help you choose what to snack on next, here are the top six worst foods for your mental health.

table full of unhealthy food
Image by Ali Inay

White bread

When you have a surge in appetite, you may reach for foods that are more “filling”. Foods like white bread, or those including white bread – such as bagels, may not be your best option. Unless they’re made of whole grains, they will have a lower fiber content and be full of high carbs. This means you’ll get an energy boost but you’ll also feel very heavy and a little bloated. The sugar content found in some white breads can also give you an unnatural energy rush, which means you’ll crash later. 

Sugary breakfast cereals

Put down that box of sugary cereal you’ve been having for years. Check the nutrition label for the amount of sugars it contains, including any form of syrup in the ingredients. Again, look for whole grain cereals for the fiber and protein you need to feel healthy, energetic, and fuller for longer. You could also consider switching out cereals for protein-filled eggs, nuts, and fruit for your sugar fix. 

Pasta and white rice

Pasta is a godsend for many of us, but it has also been proven to impact your blood sugar levels. The same goes for white rice. This means they’ll make you feel full for a little while but then turn you into a food-craving monster later on. They also make you feel slow and heavy, which is already a problem when you’re depressed. If you must eat pasta and rice, opt for the brown rice and whole grain pasta for their higher fiber content.

Fried foods

Fried foods are the ultimate binge-treat. But they’re empty calorie foods which don’t really fill you up for long. They’re also high in unhealthy fats and have insane amounts of sodium. Both of these have been linked to mood changes, irritability, lethargy, and of course, weight gain. They also impact your skin, bringing out pimples you don’t need at this stage in life. When you’re already struggling with self-image issues, fried foods are the worst foods you could possibly have. 

Processed sweets

Donuts, cookies, juice, sodas – you name it. They’re all you want to have after a bad day. But these tempting treats are rich in refined carbs and sugar. If you’re attempting to lose weight and manage your cravings, these are definitely the worst foods to do it. Moreover, research has suggested that over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals. Particularly Dopamine (the happy hormone) which increases symptoms of depression and anxiety. Instead, consider having a fruit salad. If that sounds incredibly boring, you can indulge in some dark chocolate, as this has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression

Caffeine

Yes, there are many benefits of drinking coffee every day. But the high levels of caffeine (in any beverage) also mean trouble for anxiety sufferers. When you’re already anxious, caffeine basically keeps you anxious – but faster. Your thoughts buzz even quicker than usual, your hands can become shaky, and you’ll feel the usual jitters associated with caffeine. None of these are pleasant to experience along with your usual anxiety symptoms. So lay off the caffeine, and you’ll definitely find yourself feeling calmer.

Now that you know which are the worst foods for your condition, it’s time to go hunting for the foods that benefit you. Clearly, nutrition plays a significant role in your overall health, so start taking better care of your diet today. Plan your next grocery list and make sure you’re not buying any of the foods in the list above. Your mental wellbeing depends on it!