These popular foods hurt your mental health, say experts

These popular foods hurt your mental health, say experts

It’s been a tough year-plus, with everyone struggling to varying degrees with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feelings of anxiety and dealing with social isolation is at an all time high – and we could be making things worse with our food choices.

Yup, it’s a thing – your diet could be directly impacting the way you’re feeling, so you need to understand which foods to avoid.

Through research studies and Sydney Greene, MS, RD, registered dietitian here are a few popular foods are doing the most damage when it comes to mental health.


If you’re overindulging in caffeine through stuff like coffee, chocolate, and soda, you could start to feel it in mentally.

“Excess caffeine in the diet (roughly 400 milligrams or about 4 cups of coffee) can worsen anxiety as it overstimulates areas in the brain that perceives a threat,” says Greene. “In addition, caffeine can shut down areas of the brain that can help regulate anxiety.”

The last thing you want if you’re struggling with your mental health is for caffeine to make it difficult to manage your anxiety symptoms.


This one shouldn’t be too surprising. If you’re suffering from mental health problems, alcohol will only exacerbate those issues.

Guinness beer

“The body’s effort to metabolize the alcohol throughout the night affects our ability to enter a REM state, leading to an overall poorer night’s sleep,” says Greene. “Studies show that even a 1-hour reduction in sleep can increase our calorie consumption in a day by about 500 calories and affect irritability and mood disruptions.”

Sleep is crucial for good mental health, and considering alcohol disrupts REM sleep patterns, especially when drinking in the evening, it’s a recipe for a poor mental health state.

Related: The long-lasting impact of the pandemic on our mental health

Artificial sweetners

Staying away from processed foods with artificial sweeteners could be the key to improving your mood.

“More research needs to be done to examine how artificial sweeteners affect our gut health, but preliminary studies suggest they increase harmful bacteria in the gut, which can lead to low mood and anxiety,” says Greene.

There are many reasons your mental health can suffer – so the last reason you want to be feeling down is because of that extra cup of coffee you drank, or the artificial sweetener you added to your tea.

Photo Credit: Ivan Kurmyshov/; VanderWolf Images/

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