I shared in a previous post some of my top 5 foods to eat during times of stress. There are also foods you should avoid when you’re feeling stressed because they will deplete your nutrients or cause higher levels of stress-increasing elements in our bodies. Unfortunately, these are also some of the foods we reach for when we need comfort.
Just as foods can build your health, foods can also hinder your health
Refined sugars: Refined sugars include sugars like white sugar and icing sugar. These are sugars that have been further processed to remove beneficial components. Refined sugars deplete the body of nutrients and increase lactate levels which are associate with increased feelings of anxiety (Scott, 2011). Blood sugar should remain even to prevent anxiety and sugar can cause spikes that make it difficult for your brain to get enough glucose (Balch, Stengler, & Young-Balch, 2011). Artificial sweeteners come with their own potential problems so instead try to incorporate maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, or apple sauce in moderate amounts. I find this is the one that makes the biggest difference for me!
Refined flours and grains: Refined flours and grains are foods like white flour, white bread, and white rice. Refined flours and grains contribute to fluctuations in blood sugar in the same way as refined sugar because refined flours/grains are digested much faster than complex carbohydrates which can spike blood sugar (Scott, 2011). Due to the processing removing important nutrients, they deplete the body of important vitamins like B vitamins and magnesium (Balch, Stengler, & Young-Balch, 2011). Try to include more whole flours and grains in your diet like quinoa, brown rice, brown rice flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour.
Processed foods: These are foods that tend to be ready for us to eat already but the convenience comes with a health cost. Processed foods contain additives, preservatives, artificial colours, and flavour agents like MSG that may increase feelings of anxiety (Scott, 2011). As well, processed foods often contain bad fats, like trans fats and hydrogenated oils, that are harmful to the body (Scott, 2011). Like the other foods that have been processed, this type also can deplete the body of important B vitamins and magnesium (Balch, Stengler, & Young-Balch, 2011). Instead try to freeze some healthy meals and snacks in advance so you’ll have control over the ingredients and always be prepared with healthful food on hand.
Caffeine: It’s a stimulant! Effects include: elevated heart rate, increased blood flow, higher body temperature and blood sugar, and it is a diuretic (Scott, 2011). It also increases the levels of lactate in the blood while depleting serotonin and melatonin which are important neurotransmitters for mood. (Scott, 2011) Caffeine has also been shown to deplete the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc (Scott, 2011). All of which are important to have normal levels of to prevent anxiety (Balch P. A., 2010)! A good caffeine alternative is a roasted dandelion root blend like Dandy Blend.
There are many other factors that contribute to stress so if you feel like you already have these covered, it could be beneficial to look into lifestyle changes, breathing exercises and meditation, and food sensitivities.
Balch, J. F., Stengler, M., & Young-Balch, R. (2011). Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken: Wiley.
Balch, P. A. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (5th ed.). New York: Avery.
Scott, T. (2011). The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.