Wednesday, December 7, 2022

What To Eat When You Are Stressed

How Chronic Stress Affects Eating Patterns

10 Foods To Eat When Youre Stressed

Chronic stress can affect the bodys use of calories and nutrients in various ways. It raises the bodys metabolic needs and increases the use and excretion of many nutrients. If one does not eat a nutritious diet, a deficiency may occur. Stress also creates a chain reaction of behaviors that can negatively affect eating habits, leading to other health problems down the road.

Why You Stress Eat

People look for comfort in food for both physiological and psychological reasons.

The hormone cortisol rises with chronic stress and can lead to increased appetite, says registered dietitian Allison Knott. It can be true hunger if you have extended stress that is promoting this cortisol production to the point of impacting your appetite, she says.

But just as often, food is used as a numbing strategy, says Amanda Baten, a nutritional psychologist. Its a distraction strategy in the same way that people might use alcohol or drugs or sex or TV as ways to create a buffer between themselves and whatever difficult feelings they might be experiencing.

Eating can even spark some of the same neurological reactions that drugs do, albeit to a lesser extent. Brain imaging research has shown that when people binge on carbohydrates and sugars, it can actually activate the pleasure centers of the brain, Baten says. Research has shown that sugar, like heroin or cocaine, can cause the feel-good chemical dopamine to flood the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. Sugar can also release endogenous opioids, the bodys natural painkillers, which creates a pleasant effect.

But just like drugs and alcohol, emotional eating is a bandage for stress, rather than a cure. A healthier response, Baten says, is recognizing that stress and negative emotions happen, and that we have to find sustainable ways to cope with them.

Can Certain Foods Increase Stress And Anxiety

When you get stressed or anxious, do you reach for something salty or sweet, or do you lace up and go for a walk or run? For many who feel stressed or anxious, especially during times like these, our natural instinct is to reach for foods for comfort and maybe even for an escape.

However, often the very things we choose to gulp down are only providing us short-term relief and may actually increase anxiety and depression in the long run. Theres a reason for this, according to Karen Hemmes, a registered dietitian at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix.

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Usual Suspect: Pepperoni Pizza

Healthy Stress Buster: Pizza topped with greens

We’re not going to tell you not to eat pizza, but some toppers are better than others. Swap the salty pepperoni for greens. Leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, and arugula are loaded with mood-boosting folate, a B vitamin that can fend off depression. For an added mood boost, zest some lemon peel over the top of your cooked pie.

Seek Out Social Support

Food As Medicine: Time to Eat Your Stress Away

Friends, family, coworkers, and other sources of social support can help buffer the adverse effects of stress. If you cant do an in-person visit, make a phone call, attend an online meet-up, or schedule a FaceTime session.

Consider proactively scheduling events on your calendar. Make a twice-weekly date to walk with a friend. Sign up for a weekly support group or safely meet up for coffee.

The activity itself isnt as important as a social connection.

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Does Stress Causes Hunger

You have both physical and psychological relationships with food. Your physical relationship with food is based on the types of foods you choose to eat, your eating behavior, or habits and how your body responds biologically to your diet. Your psychological, or emotional, relationship with food is based on how you think about food, how you use food for reasons other than to relieve hunger, and how food relates your body image, or the way you feel about how you look.

Sometimes you eat to satisfy true hunger, to fulfill a physical need to eat and survive. At other times, such as when you stress-eat, you eat to satisfy your appetite, or your desire for a particular type of food, because you believe it will provide relief. Thats a psychological, or emotional, need that generally has nothing to do with actual hunger. Emotional hunger is a driving response to overwhelming feelings and emotions.

Of course, if youre hungry and stressed at the same time, you may well be eating to satisfy true hunger, adds Allison. But, at the same time, you may choose fast food or a sweet dessert over something more nutritious because, at that moment, youre not trying to eat healthfully.

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Blood Sugar And Stress Explained

When we eat foods that contain refined carbohydrates , it causes a big and sudden increase in blood sugar. In the short term, this can stimulate release of endorphins – so-called ‘feel-good’ hormones. But the effect is short-lived.

When our blood sugar suddenly becomes high, it causes a lot of the hormone insulin to be released – which allows our cells to use sugar for energy. This process very quickly brings our blood sugar right back down, sometimes to a lower level then it was before we ate.

This can have a big impact on our mood. When levels of sugar are too high it can make us feel unable to concentrate and anxious. Then when blood sugar levels suddenly drop it often makes people feel low in mood and energy.

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Unhealthy Foods You Crave When You’re Stressed And What To Eat Instead

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, it’s not just causing Americans to stockpile hand sanitizer and toilet paper, it’s also making us stressed out. Luckily, there’s a simple way to combat stress, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. And, no, we’re not talking about drawing yourself a bath or laying on the couch to watch TV.

Experts have found that adding healthy, stress-busting foods to your diet can significantly impact your mood. At the same time, there are certain picks that can also make your anxiety even worse than it is already.

So, let’s do a little Eat This, Not That! for stress. Here are the foods that you may typically reach for when you’re stressed outwhich will only further aggravate anxietyand the healthy replacements that will chill you out.

Replace It With Chocolate

National Nutrition Month: What To Eat When Stressed

Neither Ben nor Jerry will be of much help when you’re feeling stressed. And while ice cream might cool off your mouth, eating a pint of it won’t cool off your mind, that’s for sure.

Foods that are high in refined sugarlike the 33 grams in a pint of Ben & Jerry’sonly increase levels of stress hormones like cortisol. When your body can’t use up all of that refined sugar, your blood glucose levels plummet rapidly. The low blood-glucose levels trigger your brain to secrete more cortisol, which in turn, causes you to continue to feel stressed.

If you want to treat yourself, satisfy your sweet tooth with chocolate-covered strawberries instead. Strawberries are packed with vitamin C , an antioxidant that has been proven to help people cope with stressful situations and treat anxiety. Plus, dipping the berries in a little dark chocolate will double down on this sweet’s stress-busting benefits.

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How Stress Can Cause Other Mental Health Issues

Stress isnt just a feeling in fact, feelings arent just feelings, either. Feelings are actually chemical reactions that occur in your brain. Your mood can be affected by neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

What does this have to do with stress?

Well, stress has its chemical footprint in something called cortisol literally the stress hormone.

Cortisol can subject your body to stress chronically, over periods of time, and when your levels of cortisol are chronically elevated, it can increase your risk of conditions like depression, can cause weight gain and, therefore, may increase the risk of eating disorders.

Thats the oversimplified explanation, but lets look at these relationships in a little more detail.

Tips To Manage Stress Eating

Have you ever felt like eating a piece of chocolate cake or a bag of chips after a stressful day at work? If so, youre not alone. Studies show that stressful events activate systems associated with metabolism, cognition and reward.

What does this mean for your waistline? It means that the candy bar you are reaching for after a stressful event may be driven by a combination of physiological and psychological factors.

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Citrus Fruits And Strawberries Contain Vitamin C Which Help Fight Stress

Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C may help ease stress levels. One double-blind study, published January 2015 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, reported that vitamin C reduced stress levels in participants taking 500 mg per day, and also pointed to possible anxiety prevention. Another study, published in November 2013 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, looked at vitamin C and vitamin E and found a significant decrease in anxiety levels in the vitamin C group compared with other groups. Eating fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries is a good place to start.

How To Stop Emotional Eating From Stress


Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

As anyone whos watching their weight will tell you that hunger is just one of many reasons that people eat. Those with a tendency toward emotional eating are especially vulnerable to making poor choices.

If youre an emotional eater, you may find yourself eating to deal with uncomfortable emotions, using food as a reward when youre happy, and craving sweets or unhealthy snacks when stressed. Dont worryyoure not alone! The following ideas can help you to cut down emotional eating and develop healthier eating habits, even when youâre stressed.

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What To Eat When Youre Stressed

Your kids are yelling, the dog is barking, the phone is ringing and youre pushing yourself to finish a project that was due yesterday. Balancing career with family is challenging enough, but when daily stressors are heightened by a serious medical diagnosis, financial hardship, or the added responsibility of caring for aging parents, life can feel unmanageable. While some stress is healthy and stimulating, chronic stress can be debilitating to your body, mind and spirit.

What we eat is critical to our ability to manage stress and poor eating habits only add to the toll stress takes on our bodies. If a stressful situation prompts you to reach for a caffeinated drink or a sugary or starchy snack, resist the urge. The jolts of insulin and cortisol will send your body on a hormone roller coaster ride. The lift you experience will be followed by a crashing drop that will tax your adrenal glands and leave you feeling even more depletedand likely to make more poor food choices throughout the day and evening. When you consider that stress triggers your adrenals to release cortisol and other hormones to fuel the fight or flight response, eating refined foods only aggravates an already vicious cycle.

  • Healthy Eating Tip: Hard boiled eggs are an easy grab-and-go snack. Top your salad with a few ounces of chicken, beef or salmon from last nights dinner.
  • Healthy Eating Tip: Drink water upon rising and apart from meals for improved digestion.

Stress And Eating Disorders: What You Need To Know

Lets start with what we know, which is that there is definitely a link between stress and eating disorders.

Stress has been regularly associated with eating disorders in studies often a person suffering from an eating disorder has symptoms of stress and depression. But an association is hardly a cause-and-effect relationship. Not everyone who gets stressed stops eating or begins binge eating.

Sadly, stress and eating disorders havent shown a clear correlation like this in research thus far, except to say that when one is present, the other is more likely to appear.

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Foods That Reduce Stress

Most of us struggle with stress. Its an overwhelming, all-encompassing feeling that can affect every aspect of our lives. Stress can be physically painful, emotionally burdensome and mentally exhausting. And outside of the occasional bubble bath or restorative yoga class, most of us dont really know how to strategically relieve stress and support the body in recovering from it.

One of the most usefuland often overlookedtools for recovering from stress can be found in a surprising place: the kitchen.


How To Tell If Youre Stress Eating

See Foods You Should Eat To Avoid Being Stressed Out

While some people purposely and consciously dive into a pint of ice cream after a trying day, others may stress eat without even knowing it, Knott says. People get on autopilot, she says. It becomes part of our lives, and we dont necessarily recognize what is happening.

To avoid mindless eating, its important to understand the difference between emotional and physical hunger. Before you tear open a bag of chips, take stock of how youre feeling physically and mentally, Knott says. Hunger feels different for everybody, but its often accompanied by physical symptoms like a growling or empty stomach, low energy and headache. If youre craving snacks without any of these physical signs, you may simply be looking for comfort or a distraction, Knott says.

If you arent truly hungry and it is a comfort food type of response, or a way to manage the stress that is related to using food to soothe, then you might want to take a different approach, Knott says.

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How Diet Can Help

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. An important part of any stress response includes identifying and reducing the causes of stress. Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, therefore much of the dietary advice below aims to stabilise levels of sugar in the blood.

Choose whole, natural foods and ensure a minimum of five portions of non-starchy vegetables per day and eat a rainbow!

More on fruit & veg intake…

Try not to skip meals. Ensure that you eat regularly, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals will help to maintain energy levels and mood, while decreasing tiredness and irritability.

More on energy…5 top tips to boost energy

Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread, pasta, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or foods with added sugars. Hidden sugars are also in many cereals, breads, tinned produce and processed or packaged foods. Replace processed foods with the unrefined foods such as brown bread, rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.

More on sugar…

What Role Do Adaptogens Play In Helping Us Feel More Calm And Focused

A buzzy word in wellness, adaptogens have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions for centuries to combat stress. Think of adaptogenic plants as natural stress regulators, says Rose. Her top two favorites? Holy basil and ashwagandha. Holy basil, she notes, is one adaptogenic plant that provides a foundation of calm to help us unwind after a long day.

Anecdotal as it may be, ashwagandha is perhaps the adaptogen that garners the most interest and attention. Rose says its popularity can be attributed to its stress-relieving magic. The roots and berries of the ashwagandha plant have been used in traditional medicine for various purposes to enable you to relax and sleep well for a nightly recharge.

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The 11 Best Foods To Eat When You’re Stressed Out

You have our permission to eat your feelings.


You already know that emotional eating won’t make your problems magically disappear, but it can also do a number on your waistlineif you load on unhealthy food, that is. Here are 11 foods you can nosh on when you’re feeling down from Columbia University psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and Fifty Shades of Kale. Just be sure to keep your portion sizes in check so you don’t consume too many calories.

Oatmeal with Cinnamon and HoneyA hot, hearty bowl of oats delivers that yummy carb-y experience and bumps up your feel-good hormone serotonin. And because its also packed with slow-to-digest fiber, it wont cause an inconsistent spike in blood sugar levels like some other foods do. Add cinnamon and a teaspoon of honey . Opt for the cleanest oatmeal option you can buy.

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Dark Chocolate-Covered AlmondsThe “chocolate cure” is real: A 2009 study by Swiss researchers suggests that eating dark chocolate reduces levels of stress hormones. It also lowers blood pressure nearly as well as drugs, per earlier studies. Meanwhile, almonds are rich in energy-boosting protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fat, which another study linked to lower rates of depression.

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SmoothiesGet your caffeine fix by blending java with soymilk , unsweetened cocoa powder , and a ripe banana .

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Putting It All Into Practice

Healthy Eating

It is easier said than done when making changes to your diet, but Buckley suggests:

“Good ways to promote a healthy diet and good mental health are to keep regular meal times, drink enough water each day and cut down on mood-altering products such as tea, coffee and alcohol. Aiming to have a diet that has a good mix of protein, slow-release carbohydrates like wholegrains or seeds and plenty of vegetables and fruit will also help.”

Try the following tips too:

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