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5 Foods to Avoid When You’re Feeling Stressed


Figuring out the best methods for managing anxiety is incredibly important for your overall health—and immune system. One often overlooked way to keep stress at bay? Choosing wholesome foods that are also good for your gut. “There is over a decade of research showing a connection between our diet, gut health, and our mental health outcomes,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, and former lead dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “Studies show that certain foods may help reduce the risk and symptoms of depression and anxiety, perhaps through mechanisms related to both gut health and inflammation.”


1. High-Fat Diets

A 2015 animal study found that body weight and blood sugar changes caused by a high-fat diet caused changes in the brain that increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. Another animal study, published in 2017, found that pregnant primates that consumed a high-fat diet were more likely to produce offspring that developed depression and anxiety.


2. Low-Fiber Diets

Low-fiber diets (such as those found in the “Western” diet) are associated with poor gut health. In turn, gut health is highly correlated with mental health outcomes. Multiple other studies show that improvements in gut health (through diet and probiotics) may help to improve overall gut health and can positively impact anxiety and depression.


A 2012 study found that heavy drinkers had a rewiring of brain activity that made them more likely to have anxiety. Other studies in teens found that binge drinking increased future occurrence of depression and anxiety.


4. Sugar

A 2019 study examining depression during the winter months found that consumption of sugar exacerbated depressive symptoms by increasing inflammation in the brain. This finding is in line with several other studies showing a link between excess sugar, inflammation, and mood disorders.


5. Fast Food and Junk Food

A 2019 study found that poor diet quality was linked to poor mental health regardless of factors such as gender, age, education, marital status, and income level. The study showed that fried foods, foods high in added sugar, and refined grains were all associated with increases in depression. Another study, published in 2012, found that individuals that consumed fast food were 51 percent more likely to develop depression.

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