Foods and Stress
Stress, everyone has it, though everyone wants less of it! In all likelihood, you are already working on ways of reducing the stress you experience, from mediation to yoga, to regular exercise, to deep breathing, and more. A simple internet search regarding stress will return page after page of stress reducing tips and tricks, but one you may have never considered is how you eat. That’s right, what you eat has a huge effect on your personal stress management.
Think about it for a minute. With today’s busy lifestyles and all the stress that comes with it, you often fail to consider what you are feeding your body. As you probably know, stress causes adrenaline and cortisol to go into overdrive, telling your body you need energy stores whether or not your body’s stores are depleted. You know what comes next. You think you are hungry and eat, often making poor choices and then overeating. Let’s explore the foods that increase stress as well as those which reduce stress, so the next time hungry strikes as a result of a stress-filled situation, you’ll know what to choose!
Foods and Beverages that Boost Stress Levels
Process Foods – You’ve probably heard that processed foods aren’t healthy options, and here is one more reason to avoid them – they are stress stimulators increasing your stress hormones. Factory farmed, and filled with harmful chemicals and fats, processed foods offer nearly no nutrients, but promise an overload of sodium and sugar to send your cortisol levels through the roof and your mood crashing down!
Sweets and Baked Goodies – Increased stress often comes with the desire to raid the candy dish or the cookie jar, knowing either will give you the energy boost you feel you need to keep going. Your stress with its hormone release, plus unhealthy food selection – candy bars, cupcakes, donuts, etc. – means weight gain and gut imbalance which results in tummy troubles and insulin resistance, a trend you certainly don’t want to join.
Alcohol – Many people reach for a cocktail or a beer to help them unwind after a stress-filled day. Contrary to what you may think, cocktails and beer increase the release of stress hormones making imbibing less than helpful in your quest for managing stress. And on top of that, alcohol acts as depressant with regard to your mood.
Energy Drinks/Coffee Drinks – When stress is in play, you don’t need the added caffeine or the processed high fructose corn syrup in your latte or your energy drink. Though either will fool you with an initial boost, it is always followed by a crash, which often leaves you depresses, tired, annoyed, and even more stressed that you were before you had it.
Foods and Beverages That Reduce Stress
Real Foods – In place of processed foods, choose real foods, those that are fresh, organic, and whole. Select foods rich in Omega-3s like salmon, tuna, pecans, pistachios, spinach, and kale, which keep cortisol down when your stress is rising. Really need a snack fix – choose healthy – nuts, seeds, or homemade chips are the perfect choice to feed both brain and body.
Berries, Fruits, Nut Butter, and Dark Chocolate – When sweet cravings come, and they will, chose berries, fiber-filled fruits, nut butters, and dark chocolate. You’ll find you enjoy the sweetness even more knowing you’re keeping cortisol levels down, while increasing your intake of needed nutrients and fiber.
Wine – A single glass of wine delivers the antioxidants your body loves, and even helps your blood pressure. But even with wine, the key is moderation, more will simply boost cortisol levels, which is what you’re working to avoid.
Teas and Green Juices – Green, White, Black, or Red, hot or cold, tea offers a boost without the crash, delivered with the bonus of healthful antioxidants. If you feel you need an added energy boost, consider creating your own healthy green juice and get the nutrient filled boost you’re craving.