Top 5 foods to avoid when feeling stressed out
N.B. This blog is also available in Finnish and you’ll find it here
Did you have a stressful day? Was it good kind of stress that pushes you through the workday and gives you energy or is the stress more like a daily state of mind that affects negatively on you?
There will always be things that some of us find stressful and things that are out of our control. While there are many healthy ways to combat the stress, one of the easiest ways to manage that stress state in your body is to choose more carefully what you put in your mouth.
I listed here my top 5 foods to avoid when you are stressed to make it easier for you to make better choices and feel less stressed.
Sugar. On my list, sugar is the first thing to cut out of your diet when you’re stressed. This might be also the most difficult one to leave behind, because when you’re stressed, your cortisol levels rise. These higher cortisol levels send a message to your brain that you need more energy (sugar) and also cause sleep issues, decreased immune response, headaches, and unhealthy food cravings.
By eating less (or eliminating them totally in the best case!) foods with added sugars, like candy bars, pastries, flavored yogurt, store-bought smoothies (most of them are sugar loaded!) & granola bars and soft drinks and choosing instead more whole foods, you’ll keep your blood sugar stable. In summary, ditching the sugar you’ll reduce stress, have a happier mind and body and forget all the unwanted mood swings.
‘White’ carbs. Just like sugar, simple carbohydrates like chips, cookies, pies, bread and pasta made of white flour can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by a period of low energy and cravings for more sugary energy sources. And that vicious circle mentioned above is ready!
Instead of eating a bag of chips or package of cookies as a snack, choose slow-releasing carbohydrate snacks like wholemeal toast with avocado, or hummus with veggie sticks.
Processed foods. They might taste heavenly in your mouth, but to be honest, processed foods usually doesn’t have any kind of nutritional value, they might lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels (you might feel yourself irritable, moody and stressed in a minutes) and are so called empty calories. Processed foods also steel room from healthy foods, that have stress tackling nutrients. Many processed foods are also high in sodium, that causes your body to retain more fluid and can also increase blood pressure. Quite stressful, or what!
When doing groceries, choose always natural and products without preservatives. The shorter the ingredients list is, the better!
Alcohol. After a hard and long workday, a pint of beer or a glass of wine might sound tempting and relaxing, but the real affects on your body are quite the opposite. Drinking alcohol can increase the production of certain hormones that may leave you feeling more stressed, tired and anxious. Alcohol also acts as a depressant in your nervous system and disrupts your deep sleep and can also increase heart rate and blood pressure when used in larger amounts and trigger those same stress-like symptoms in you.
Excessive caffeine. Before you even say anything, calm down and finish your morning coffee! Cup or two per day is totally fine, but like with everything, excessive caffeine consumption can overstimulate your body, cause rise in blood pressure and heart rate (because it affects on the nervous system) and ultimately increase feelings of anxiety. Limiting your caffeine intake and avoiding all caffeine in the afternoons will help you to stay calm in stressful situations and get better quality and deeper sleep during the nights.
Remember also, that caffeine can be hiding in soft drinks, certain types of tea, energy drinks, pain killers, and even chocolate!
I mentioned that some foods are better than the others when you want to tackle that stress. To make this a little bit easier for you, I listed my favorite stress reducing foods. No hard-to-find superfoods or supplements, just ordinary food items found in your local super market!