The Four Foods You Must Avoid if you’re Stressed

One of the more popular ways we cope with stress is to reach for a snack. Sugary or salty treats like chocolate and chips are regular fixtures of “stress eating.” The truth is, most of the things we reach for when we’re feeling stressed actually exacerbate the problem.

When you’re feeling stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisone, otherwise known as the “stress hormone.” And when it’s being released, you crave more of it, which is reflected in the foods you turn to.

Many of the most popular stress “comfort” foods boost cortisone levels that in turn end up having an effect that’s the opposite of what you want. This is important to know, because the body craves the increased cortisone during stressful situations; therefore, it’s your job to know this and find alternatives. Here are some of the worst foods to eat when you’re stressed and what you should try instead:

  • Energy drinks: Stay away from these when you’re feeling stressed. The caffeine and sugar found in these drinks will make your stress worse, raise anxiety, and result in a heavier crash. In fact, stay away from coffee, too. Instead, drink water or tea. Green tea contains the amino acid theanine and this been linked to calming anxiety and promoting sleep. Black tea can have a calming effect, too, and has been shown to de-stress people rather quickly.
  • Candy and sweets: The sugar in these treats leads to increased cortisone in the body. This means you’ll feel more stressed after you eat them. The high sugar content in candy and sweets can actually make you more stressed by spiking insulin and blood sugar levels that lead to irritability and crashes. Because these foods have little to no nutritional value, eating them will just lead to more food cravings. Instead, reach for some dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. People who eat dark chocolate have been found to have lower levels of cortisol in their blood, plus the antioxidant flavonoids in dark chocolate are known for their relaxing properties.
  • Processed food: Processed food like chips, French fries and other “comfort foods” increase stress levels because they are high in cortisone. This can lead to binge eating and more stress. Instead, try some citrus fruit like a grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or clementine. Even a vitamin C supplement is effective. Vitamin C has been shown in studies to help people bounce back from stressful situations. In one study, blood pressure and cortisol levels were found to drop much faster in subjects given a vitamin C supplement than those who were given a placebo.
  • Alcohol: Booze also stimulates the release of cortisol. Alcohol is a dangerous cure for stress because the two feed each other. The more you drink, the more stressed you’re likely to become.

To take a pre-emptive strike against stress, include oatmeal and fatty fish into your diet. Having a bowl of oatmeal every day can naturally boost your mood by stimulating serotonin production in the brain. The production is drawn out over time because the digestion of the oatmeal is slow and steady. Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, and have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, while keeping cortisol from jumping during stressful events. The next time you’re feeling stressed, step away from the bag of chips and grab some citrus fruits and oatmeal cookies instead.

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