What you eat can alter your mood, for better or worse. Learn which foods could trigger feelings equivalent to a dreadful deadline and what nourishment is nature’s version of a chill pill.

You know that yucky feeling you get in the pit of your stomach after eating a greasy cheeseburger and fries out of a paper wrapper? Turns out, fast food is doing damage to more than just your body; it can mess with your emotions, too.

Even just one drive through meal can increase production of your anxiety-boosting hormones and decrease the ones that help reduce stress. When you’re more anxious and stressed, you’re more likely to have a panic attack.

Here are 5 other foods that can elevate your anxiety and stress and easy substitutes that will leave you feeling relaxed and calm:

1. Instead of…Diet Coke

Try…flavored sparkling water

Diet colas hit you with a double whammy of caffeine and aspartame. Too much caffeine can make you feel anxious (no surprise there) and aspartame can deplete your levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. The next time you crave a soda, reach for a flavored seltzer or sparkling water. It has the same fizzy carbonation and a refreshing, fruity taste, without the caffeine or artificial sweeteners.

2. Instead of…gummi bears

Try…dried mangoes

When you crave something sweet and chewy, pass up the gummi bears in favor of dried mangos or other dried fruit. Both gummi bears and dried mango are high in sugar, which can cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar and mood. But dried mangos contain fiber, so they come in lower on the glycemic index. They also contains vitamins A and C and iron which give them a nutritional edge over gummi bears.

3. Instead of…tofu



While a vegan burger may seem like a healthy option for meatless protein, tofu isn’t the best choice if you’re prone to anxiety. It is high in phytic acid, which makes it hard for your body to absorb zinc. Low levels of zinc have been tied to higher levels of anxiety in studies. Tempeh, which is a fermented soybean product, has the benefit of being lower in phytic acid, plus it’s easier for your body to digest and contains more magnesium, protein and fiber than tofu.

4. Instead of…whole wheat bread


Try…sourdough bread

Even if you don’t have celiac disease, eating gluten may make you more anxious and depressed. Those with even mild gluten-sensitivities reported feeling less anxious once gluten was removed from their diet in one study. But that doesn’t mean you have to cut out bread entirely. Sourdough made in the traditional style is a great option because it has less gluten. It is fermented overnight giving the good bacteria the chance to breakdown the gluten protein.

5. Instead of…canned chicken noodle soup


Try…homemade vegetable soup

Next time you’re craving comfort food, think twice about that canned chicken noodle soup. Processed foods can make your more depressed, according to one major study. In addition soup cans are often lined with Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that can mess with the mood stabilizing hormones in your brain. Not to mention all that salt never makes you feel good. Instead, make a hearty batch of vegetable soup with carrots, kale, tomatoes and quinoa. Don’t you feel better just thinking about it?

If you’re feeling overly anxious and need help reducing stress, reach out to your primary care physician for help. If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800)USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

By Anne Fritz