Stress generally refers to the body’s response to something that can cause anxiety or fear (distress), this is characterized by the body’s mechanism to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This condition can occur in a short or long time. In a short amount of time stress usually pushes us to immediately do something and reduce appetite, but if anxiety continues and lasts for a long time the body will produce the hormone cortisol which tends to make us feel hungry.
So, what is the connection between food and stress? What foods that affect stress? How can food affect our mood and feelings? Let’s see from the review below.
Effect of stress and diet
Stress makes our body want to consume food in large quantities (overeating), especially the desire to eat fatty and sweet foods. As time goes by and the stress triggers are diminishing, we do not experience anxiety anymore so that appetite will return to normal.
However, the number of calories in our body will continue to increase if we keep eating due to the stress we experience. Therefore, we need to adjust our eating patterns. Some foods can help our body produce the serotonin hormone which can calm our brain’s performance, reduce stress hormones, and help alleviate the effects of stress such as strengthening our immune system and lowering blood pressure.
Foods that relieve stress and depression
Food can help relieve stress in several ways. First, there are foods that can increase the serotonin hormone (the happy hormone). Then, some foods that reduce stress hormones and adrenaline that make our head dizzy.
The following eating patterns can help alleviate the effects of stress, we’ll see how nutrition impacts stress:
Carbohydrate consumption (prioritize complex carbohydrates)
Carbohydrates help our brain to produce more serotonin hormone. The more carbohydrates we eat, the better our body produces this hormone. The consumption of complex carbohydrates will last longer and help our body to produce more serotonin. Complex carbohydrates will help us in maintaining weight and blood sugar levels. Foods with complex carbohydrates include various whole-grain foods, cereals, and oatmeal.
Consumption of simple carbohydrate foods such as sugar, rice, and white bread can increase levels of the serotonin hormone faster. This is because simple carbohydrates are relatively easier to digest. However, it needs to be controlled because the side effects of consuming sweet foods will accelerate the increase of blood sugar levels and calories.
Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a role in reducing stress hormone levels and also strengthens the body’s immune system. This is important because stress can reduce our body’s immunity.
Vitamin C can be obtained in relatively high amounts from citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, various berries, and papaya fruits, as well as vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and paprika.
For me, vitamin C is my number 1 go-to foods to beat stress. I try to take vitamin C supplement every day to make sure my body gets enough vitamin C for the day.
Also read: BEST Vitamins and Supplements for STRESS
Eating red beef
Beef has a variety of nutrients such as omega 3, vitamins, and antioxidants that can improve our heart health and reduce the risk of experiencing depression. Besides red beef tends to be low in fat so it is good to consume when we are under stress.
Eating foods with antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that can calm the mind and reduce our blood pressure because of the polyphenol and flavonol compounds. Antioxidants can be obtained from tea and dark chocolate.
Eating foods with potassium
The consumption of adequate potassium can lower our blood pressure, especially in someone who is stressed because they are prone to hypertension. If we eat more foods with potassium, we will lose more sodium through our urine.
Potassium can be obtained from fruits such as avocados and bananas.
Increase our magnesium levels
Magnesium is useful to relieve the effects of stress such as fatigue and headaches. This nutrient can be obtained from a variety of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and other food ingredients such as soybeans and salmon.
Eating foods with omega 3
Various fish-based foods such as tuna and salmon can also reduce the effects of stress because they contain high levels of omega 3. The benefits of omega 3 include preventing increased stress hormones and maintaining our heart’s health and preventing depression.
Eat more nuts
The consumption of nuts can nourish blood vessels and reduce cholesterol levels in our blood. By eating nuts, you can minimize the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system. However, it still needs to be limited because nuts have high calories.
If you are allergic to nuts, you can skip this.
Avoid eating foods that are high in fat, caffeine, and sugar
When under stress, we tend to want to eat foods that taste good, addictive, and encouraging eating more, but of course that is not a good way to get through a time of stress.
The consumption of excess fat and sugar can reduce brain performance when we are under stress. It can cause us difficulties to think clearly.
Excessive consumption of caffeine during stress will make it difficult for the brain to rest. Coupled with the effects of caffeine which can be stored in our body can cause us to have difficulty sleeping. While the consumption of sugar which is a simple carbohydrate can cause obesity and increase our blood sugar levels faster if consumed in large quantities.
Eating junk food can make you depressed
Both our brain and body work all the time without stopping, therefore we need energy that fuels us to do all the work. Imagine if your body and brain are a luxury car that requires very good care, one thing that must be considered is the quality of the fuel used.
Eating foods that contain various nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can protect our brain and body from various diseases and avoid oxidative stress that causes free radicals that can damage our body. But what would happen if the body like a luxury vehicle is given bad quality fuel, such as junk foods? They are foods that cause stress.
How can food affect your mood and feelings?
1) Reduce serotonin production
Serotonin is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep, appetite, mood, and body temperature. This hormone is 95% produced in the digestive tract that is connected with millions of nerve cells, so it is not impossible that what you eat will affect your mood. Research says that groups that often consume high and low-fat foods for other nutrients have lower levels of serotonin. So, consumption of foods such as junk food, not only makes your fat reserves increase but also makes your mood bad and easy to experience stress.
2) Junk food does not have the probiotic bacteria that our body needs
Foods such as junk food usually do not have good nutrients and only contain high fat due to the cooking process by frying at very high temperatures. Of course, food like that does not contain probiotic bacteria that are useful to help the body to digest food and drinks.
Various studies suggest that probiotic bacteria can increase the hormone serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone. While the lack of probiotic bacteria will cause people to experience stress and depression. Research says that people who have probiotic bacteria in their bodies have lower levels of stress and anxiety compared to people who have fewer probiotic bacteria.
Another study compared groups that often ate western food such as junk food with a group consuming traditional food. The results of the study found that the group consuming junk food experienced a stress level of 25-35% higher than the other group. This is because traditional foods consist of various foods that are rich in nutrients, whereas western food only has a high-fat content.
3) Increase oxidative stress in the body
Oxidative stress is a natural process that occurs in the body due to too many free radicals produced by the body. Oxidative stress can be triggered by excessive fat consumption, such as trans fats found in various types of junk food. If this process continues in the body, then the body will feel ‘saturated’ and trigger severe depression in a person. Based on research that has been done, shows that people who have major depression have more free radical levels compared to people who are not under pressure.
Research involving at least 657 cases of depression, proves that groups that consume foods that contain high trans fat, such as pastry and junk food, have high levels of depression. Whereas the group that often consumed foods containing unsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, and various kinds of nuts had lower levels of depression. In other studies, consumption of high-fat foods can increase the risk of depression by as much as 48%.
Why does eating relieve stress?
Is it true that eating can relieve stress? When stressed, people usually make eating as an escape. What is the explanation behind this?
When stress comes, usually the desire to eat will increase. Many people believe that eating can help reduce stress and make you calmer. Right?
Quoting from the American Psychological Association website, research has shown an association between stress and eating patterns.
The study states that someone who is anxious and threatened tends to look for one thing that can help him/her forget the source of the problem. And eating is a popular choice.
When stressed, usually people also have “comfort” food standards. Quite often the foods chosen are foods that are far from healthy categories, such as foods that are high in calories, fat, and contain lots of sugar. That happens because your brain asks for more energy when you feel pressured.
The brain releases the hormone cortisol when a person is under pressure. That hormone triggers you to continue to put food into your mouth. In fact, eating can help you calm the hormone cortisol, which also means you have won against stress.
In that study, there were many adults who reported unhealthy eating behavior as a result of stress. They say that food, especially food that is considered tasty, is really effective to temporarily distract from the stress.
However, in the end, they claimed they regretted doing those things. Because in fact, the fat-filled food they eat actually makes them weak and increasingly lazy to do anything. In addition, unhealthy food can also trigger a number of dangerous diseases.
Eating to get rid of stress is not mere boasting. However, you still need to be wise in regulating your food intake when stressed. Instead of obeying the “evil” desire of your body eating foods that are full of fat, try to switch to healthier foods.
Instead of you eating a bowl of fried food or junk food, try to choose yogurt. Besides being healthier, a 2013 UCLA study has confirmed that probiotics in yogurt can help reduce stress.
A total of 36 healthy women revealed that consuming probiotics in yogurt can reduce activity in the part of the brain that handles emotions — including stress — compared to people who consume yogurt without probiotics or don’t consume yogurt at all.
Eat smart, your body will thank you later
Whether we realize it or not, eating can actually help you control stress. However, you should be more selective in choosing foods to be more healthy and productive.
Now that you’ve learned what foods that affect stress, please let me know in the comment section below, what are your favorite foods to boost your mood and reduce your stress?
Thanks for reading. Stay safe, happy, and healthy my friends.
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Thank you for reading today’s topic: Foods That Affect Stress – The Good and Bad Ones