You may notice that you reach for the potato chips when a television program becomes particularly frightening. Or you grab the crackers at work when you learn that you’ll have to handle a new project. You may also nibble on candy bars when you’re having difficulty controlling your children. These eating patterns are all a reaction to stress.
Stress plays an important part in our daily diet. In fact, a great deal of overeating has been attributed to stress. However, it is also true that your diet can have an impact on stress. There are certain foods that tend to worsen our stress levels. A number of these foods fall into the category of stimulants.
Of course, the best-known stimulant is caffeine. You’ll find it not only in coffee, but in soft drinks, tea, and chocolate. Your heartbeat races, as does your mind, when you are served a significant amount of caffeine. Caffeine consumption may even be connected to high blood pressure. However, you might not want to cut out caffeine entirely all at once. A gradual reduction will help lessen your withdrawal symptoms.
Consuming alcohol can also increase your stress level. It leads to the production of adrenaline, which can cause you to have difficulty sleeping. You might also experience a feeling of tension as a result of your alcohol intake. In addition, alcohol makes it more difficult for the body to get rid of toxins. Smoking is also quite dangerous, increasing hypertension and leading to heart disease.
Chances are you will experience a great deal of stress after eating sugar. This is because this sweet substance can exhaust the adrenal glands, leading to depression and irritability. While some people tend to reach for sugar cookies when they are feeling stressed, the irony is that sugar-filled snacks can actually make you feel even more stressed out.
Salt and fat are two substances that can increase your stress level. Salt, for instance, raises the blood pressure, causing an individual to feel as if his or her emotions are out of control. As a result, you should not eat high-salt foods such as ham or sausage. Meanwhile, consuming fat can put a strain on the cardiovascular system, leading to more stress. In general, you should avoid highly processed food, which tends to be sparse in nutritional value.
If you want to get your stress level under control, consider a diet that is rich in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. These are natural stress-busters, filled with nutrients that will help you to feel good over the long run. Also, these foods are far less likely to result in weight gain—another significant cause of stress. Some dietitians recommend eating a diet that is 65 to 70 percent raw in order to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of nutrients—nutrients that could be otherwise lost during the cooking process.
How do you know if your diet is stressing you out? Pay close attention to the warning signs. For instance, do you get headaches right after eating? Are you experiencing neck or back pain? Do you feel irritable after dinner? Do you feel anxious for no reason? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be dealing with food-induced stress.
As you attempt to combat that stress, you should also make sure that you get at least seven hours of sleep each night in order to ensure that you are well-rested. Being tired can contribute significantly to your stress level.
There is no question that eating right can reduce your stress. Indulging in caffeine-filled drinks or fatty foods can simply make you hyper, unable to relax, or to concentrate. However, if you eat meals that are rich in vitamins and minerals, you could find your stress level significantly reduced. Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure that you receive the maximum nutrition. Be sure to eat slowly and deliberately—feeling rushed at mealtime can contribute to your stress level.
The good news is diet is a stressor you can easily control. By following a few common-sense techniques, you can ensure that you are eating a diet that will greatly reduce your stress.