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Diet and Anxiety

By Eileen Bailey

The foods we eat can have an impact on the amount of stress we feel and our physical health. Additionally, during times of stress and anxiety, we can make poor choices, eat unhealthy foods, and contribute to the stress and anxiety we feel.

Cortisol is the “stress hormone” and is produced in higher levels during times of stress. This increased level of cortisol may make people crave foods with high levels of salt, sugar and fat. Eating these foods, however, can increase our stress levels. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Thinking about the foods we consume and changing our habits to include more healthy foods, we can reduce the amount of stress and anxiety we feel.

Foods to Avoid


Caffeine is one of the most common stress inducing foods we consume. It is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some sodas. While a small amount of caffeine may help some people be more alert and focus, excessive caffeine can have just the opposite impact, causing irritability, loss of focus and can cause people to feel jittery and anxious.

One cup of coffee normally has 108 milligrams of caffeine, tea has approximately 90, colas around 60 milligrams in a 12 ounce can and chocolate can have up to 20 milligrams of caffeine in every ounce. Consuming more than 250 milligrams of caffeine per day is considered excessive.

Limiting your consumption of caffeine may be one way to help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Try to wean yourself off of caffeine by changing to green tea. Green tea does not contain caffeine but does supply you with antioxidants to help combat disease and illness.

White Sugar and White Flour

Eating foods containing white sugar and white flour can decrease the amount of “B” vitamins in your system. Doing so can cause irritability, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat and decrease your ability to concentrate. Eating cake, cookies, pastries and candy (as well as adding white sugar to your coffee) can increase general feelings of unhealthiness and add to stress and anxiety levels.

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