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Foods That Can Stress You Out

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6 Min Read

We are all guilty of binging on fried, salty, or sweet foods when we feel nervous, anxious, or stressed. But did you know some foods could actually be making your stress worse? In fact, some popular snacks and drinks can inject stress even when you’re in an otherwise neutral frame of mind. So watch what you eat because your food could be stressing you out!

We are all guilty of binging on fried, salty, or sweet foods when we feel nervous, anxious, or stressed. But did you know some foods could actually be making your stress worse? In fact, some popular snacks and drinks can inject stress even when you’re in an otherwise neutral frame of mind. So watch what you eat because your food could be stressing you out!

Why Caffeine May Not Be Your Best Friend After All

When you need a pick-me-up, a cup of coffee is often the first thing you turn to. Unfortunately, this stimulant may actually be doing you more harm. The caffeine in your favorite beverage could be causing your body to secrete more cortisol – whether you are experiencing some mental stress or even when you are just relaxing and are free of external stress triggers.1

According to one landmark study, caffeine consumption in the morning has the potential to cause elevated stress levels through your day. It can also result in heightened sympathetic adrenal-medullary responses – that is, how your body responds to stress. For habitual coffee drinkers, blood pressure levels and stress reactivity can be elevated, also putting you at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.2 For the same reasons, it is a good idea to avoid energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine.

The Lows Of An Alcohol High

So how does a celebratory drink that’s designed to numb your senses get you stressed? According to researchers, that’s because alcohol causes your body to produce the hormones it normally produces while stressed. Besides causing significant stress reactions, it has also been found to increase blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. And because stress can counter the “happy” feelings alcohol brings, you may need to drink more to get the same familiar happy buzz you are used to with less. Consuming alcohol can also cause your tension to last longer.3

Alcohol also adds to your stress levels via its tendency to impact sleep quality. Alcohol can interfere with sleep onset and causes disruptions during the second half of a night’s sleep.4

Refined Sugar: Nothing To Rave About

Those who tend to get anxious easily would do well to keep off sweets, desserts, and treats that contain refined sugar. The sugar in these foods give you a quick high from a rush of energy, but as your body burns through it quickly, your blood sugar levels plummet just as fast. The result? You experience hypoglycemia which could bring on anxiety. The tiredness adds to your feeling of being overwhelmed and can aggravate stress and panic. If the results of one animal study are anything to go by, it is better to feed your need for something sweet by adding antioxidant-rich honey to your food to avoid getting more stressed and anxious.5

Why Salty Snack Food Is A Drain On Your Body

Salty snacks are finger-licking good and can seem like the perfect way to beat a midweek slump or midnight craving. Unfortunately, all that sodium in these snacks can cause water retention as your body holds more fluid to keep the balance of salts in your system steady. The problem with excess fluid is that it causes your blood pressure to go up as well. Your stress levels rise too, and you’re left feeling exhausted from the extra load on your heart, which needs to work harder.6

If you’re yearning for a quick salty snack, have something healthier like unsweetened yogurt or a slice of cheese with fruit. If you’re at home, you could roast up some superfood chips in the oven with very little salt and heart-healthy olive oil. Sweet potatoes or kale work a treat.

Processed Foods: A Shortcut To Stress?

Processed foods are problematic on many levels. They combine high salt and high refined sugar content with a slew of chemicals that can all wreak havoc with your stress levels. Additives in foods can also bring on problems with mood regulation. As research has found, even food allergies to the myriad ingredients in a pack of processed food could cause mood swings and behavioral problems, all of which could stress you out further.7

Keep Your Stress (And Eating) Under Control For A Better Life

Foods that you have cravings for and which you seek out when you are already tense or anxious are also the ones that can actually make your stress worse. They cause an increase in the level of stress hormone cortisol, adding to your already fraught state of mind.

As studies have found, women tend to be especially prone to these poor food choices when stressed already8 while men are not likely to switch to unhealthy high fat, sugary, or salty foods when stressed.9 Poor food choices seem to have a connection to high cortisol levels in the blood. Eating these sugary, salty, and fatty foods can actually be counterproductive and take your stress levels even higher.10

With stress eating being such a common phenomenon, it is important to take control of what you eat when you’re at the end of your tether. Turning to alternative therapy like yoga or meditation to destress could help prevent that downward spiral into “stress eating.” Make lifestyle changes and you should soon see better control of your stress levels. More importantly, it could help you sidestep binging on something that could worsen an already bad situation, and give you a window to a calmer side of life.

References   [ + ]

1.Lovallo, William R., Thomas L. Whitsett, Mustafa al’Absi, Bong Hee Sung, Andrea S. Vincent, and Michael F. Wilson. “Caffeine stimulation of cortisol secretion across the waking hours in relation to caffeine intake levels.” Psychosomatic medicine 67, no. 5 (2005): 734.
2.Lane, James D., Carl F. Pieper, Barbara G. Phillips-Bute, John E. Bryant, and Cynthia M. Kuhn. “Caffeine affects cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activation at work and home.” Psychosomatic medicine 64, no. 4 (2002): 595-603.
3.Childs, Emma, Sean O’Connor, and Harriet de Wit. “Bidirectional interactions between acute psychosocial stress and acute intravenous alcohol in healthy men.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 35, no. 10 (2011): 1794-1803.
4.Ebrahim, Irshaad O., Colin M. Shapiro, Adrian J. Williams, and Peter B. Fenwick. “Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 37, no. 4 (2013): 539-549.
5.Chepulis, Lynne M., Nicola J. Starkey, Joseph R. Waas, and Peter C. Molan. “The effects of long-term honey, sucrose or sugar-free diets on memory and anxiety in rats.” Physiology & behavior 97, no. 3 (2009): 359-368.
6.Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
7.Bozoglu, Faruk. “Food allergies, intolerances and food-borne intoxications.” In Strategies for Achieving Food Security in Central Asia, pp. 93-108. Springer Netherlands, 2012.
8.Zellner, Debra A., Susan Loaiza, Zuleyma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Pita, Janira Morales, Deanna Pecora, and Amanda Wolf. “Food selection changes under stress.” Physiology & Behavior 87, no. 4 (2006): 789-793.
9.Zellner, Debra A., Shin Saito, and Johanie Gonzalez. “The effect of stress on men’s food selection.” Appetite 49, no. 3 (2007): 696-699.
10.George, Sophie A., Samir Khan, Hedieh Briggs, and James L. Abelson. “CRH-stimulated cortisol release and food intake in healthy, non-obese adults.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 35, no. 4 (2010): 607-612.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

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