The Experts Agree: What You Eat Can Directly Impact Stress and Anxiety

The Experts Agree: What You Eat Can Directly Impact Stress and Anxiety

The Experts Agree: What You Eat Can Directly Impact Stress and Anxiety


Key Takeaways

  • According to experts, what you eat has an impact on your mental health.
  • Stress can be exacerbated by things you don’t eat, such as sugar and processed carbohydrates.
  • You can indulge in your favorite foods while still eating a nutrient-rich diet.

You might find that the immediate satisfaction you experience after indulging in your favourite burger and fries or deep-dish pizza wears off after a while. According to registered dietitian Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD, of Lubbock, Texas, who also serves as a spokesman for the manufacturer of All-Purpose In The Raw sugar, “There is evidence that nutrition influences mood, including depression and anxiety, as well as our body’s stress response.”

For instance, an Australian study from Edith Cowan University published in Clinical Nutrition in 2021 discovered that consuming a diet high in fruit and vegetables is linked to lower levels of stress The Experts Agree: What You Eat Can Directly Impact Stress and Anxiety.

Of the 8,600 participants, those with 10% lower levels of stress than those with less than 230 grammes per day ate at least 470 grammes of fruit and vegetables per day. The findings, in the researchers’ opinion, support the hypothesis that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with mental health.

McMordie concurs. “The brain controls mood, and for the brain to function well, nutrients from diet must be consumed,” she claims.

She continues by saying that the microbiome in the gut, commonly known as the digestive system, affects mood.

What we eat can assist or hinder these regions since nutrient deficiencies and inflammation can be factors in anxiety and stress, according to McMordie.

What Foods Negatively Affect Mental Well-being?

According to Teralyn Sell, PhD, a psychotherapist and expert on brain health, caffeine, sugar, alcoholic beverages, and not eating at all are the main food offenders that cause stress.

She says that “caffeine-containing foods or beverages might elevate your heart rate, produce jitters, make it harder to fall asleep, etc. Although it doesn’t directly induce anxiety, caffeine can undoubtedly add to it The Experts Agree: What You Eat Can Directly Impact Stress and Anxiety.

“The brain controls mood, and for it to function optimally, it need nutrients from meals.”


She points out that many studies fall short of explaining why diets like the Mediterranean diet are less likely to cause depression and anxiety than diets high in processed foods, fast food, and sugar.

There is little room for nutrient-dense foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, nuts.

whole grains and legumes since the majority of the diet consists of highly processed foods that are devoid of a lot of nutrients.

Also useful according to Sell, is understanding how blood sugar management also known as reactive hypoglycemia

or low blood sugar that happens after eating, can result in tension and worry.

“Your mood goes on a roller coaster trip. Your body will eventually release adrenaline when your blood sugar is dysregulated,

which puts your body into fight-or-flight mode and activates your worried brain, according to her. That being said, a high-sugar diet will cause blood sugar dysregulation and increase stress and anxiety.

What Foods Can Improve Mental Well-being?

According to Sell, eating whole foods, protein, and healthy fats can improve your mental wellness.

Serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters in your brain depend on amino acids from protein and dietary cofactors (vitamins A, D, C, and B, among others) from other nutrient-rich meals. Because of this, she argues

it’s critical to assess your nutrition when working to elevate your mental state.

McMordie says that you should try to include colourful fruits and vegetables, fatty fish like salmon, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and complete grains. To avoid vitamin deficits, she advises including a variety of these foods in regular meals and snacks rather than just on special occasions.

She adds that a Mediterranean-style diet and other nutrient-rich foods,

such as yoghurt and kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and tempeh,

“may contribute to a better mood.”

Ways to Alleviate Stress and Anxiety Related to Food During the Holidays

According to McMordie,

a large portion of the stress associated with food over the holidays can be caused by attempting to limit your holiday favourites and/or decreasing overall food intake in preparation of the numerous delicacies there.

Attempting to restrict oneself might set off a vicious cycle of anger and anxiety brought on by low blood sugar and hunger-induced deprivation,

which, according to McMordie, can result in guilt and further restriction.

She advises eating wholesome meals and snacks throughout the day and allowing yourself to indulge in one or two of your favourite sweets

if you are desiring them as opposed to restricting yourself from eating your favourite indulgences.

One or two Christmas cookies won’t result in an uncontrollable sugar binge or any negative health impacts if you are already getting enough nutrition.

claims McMordie.

She advises utilising natural sources of sweetness,

such as fruit, honey, or monk fruit,

in your favourite recipes if you are unable to consume sugar for health reasons.

“Caffeine-containing foods and drinks might make it hard for you to fall asleep, make you jittery,

and elevate your heart rate. Although it doesn’t cause anxiety, caffeine can undoubtedly add to it.”


Additionally, she claims that substituting kefir or cultured yoghurt for dairy products

like sour cream or a portion of the butter in some dishes can increase their nutritional value.

If your favourite main dish contains a lot of meat,

consider replacing it with fish or making a “mix” of ground meat and mushrooms,

advises McMordie.

Sell advises cutting back on or avoiding alcohol to prevent an adrenaline rush and disrupted sleep,

as well as consuming more protein-rich foods every three hours to maintain your blood sugar levels stable at all times.

“The most essential thing is to not deprive yourself of treats. Instead, combine those pleasures with excellent sociability “Sell suggested.

You Don’t Have to Make Perfect Food Choices

When it comes to eating, being imperfect is “absolutely ok,” according to Sell. Instead, choose items that fall into the “good, better, best” categories; other days are simply “good enough,” she advises.

She claims that if you master this strategy,

you may start enhancing your diet to a “more frequently than not” status. Also, start small by consuming protein every three hours and avoiding meal skipping to stabilise blood sugar. After that, you can expand,” Sell advises.