Can Carbs Make You Anxious?


Is a low-carb diet the new Xanax?

(Just kidding, people—don’t go switching up your meds in favor of the keto diet without talking to Doc first.) 

But, recent research published in Scientific Reports does point to the relationship between higher carbohydrate intake and increased anxiety. 

In this study, researchers looked at the carb-loving tendencies and anxiety levels of over 15,600 French adults over 5 years. 

The results? 

Bagels and Bread and Buns, Oh My

Bad news for lasagna lovers—the odds of persistent anxiety (having anxiety throughout the whole study) were 10% higher for people with the highest carb intake compared to the low-carb crowd. 

They also looked at how different types of carbs affected anxiety. 

As a shock to no one, drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages (lookin’ at you soda, sweet tea, lattes, sports drinks, etc.) amped up anxiety by 11%. 

But surprisingly, 100% fruit juice got the green light—despite its high sugar content, the researchers think this might be due to the beneficial antioxidant action—as it lowered the odds of anxiety by 13%. 

Interestingly, people with the highest intake of complex carbs—which are generally thought to be the good guys—had 9% greater odds of persistent anxiety.

The Odds of Anxiety

Are All Carbs Bad? Well, Not So Fast 

Here at The Nutrition Insider, we take a pretty balanced approach to diet, meaning we don’t want to demonize any one specific food or food group. 

Although this study showed that there was a correlation (read: not causation) between higher carb intake and anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to banish bread forever. 

In fact, sometimes carbohydrates can actually make us feel good, as they stimulate the release of serotonin, our main happy hormone.

(After all, there’s a reason that “comfort food” generally doesn’t involve salads.) 

While we’re definitely not telling you that quinoa will kill you or that munching on mango will destroy your mental health, our society does tend to go a bit too hard on the sugar and refined carbs. 

Overall, if you have anxiety, it may be worth taking a closer look at your carb consumption and packing some extra protein into your diet instead.

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