Did you know that your food choices can have an impact on your stress levels? I know, it sounds like a stretch, but your diet might be full of foods that are making you feel more stressed out throughout your day. The foods below create inflammation in your body and cause your whole system to work harder to process it. This makes you a lot less able to handle the normal stressors that come your way, leading to heightened feelings of overwhelm, overburden, and, yes, stress! Avoiding these foods is not only going to help lower your stress levels, but it will also improve your overall health, improve sleep and digestion, combat anxiety, and improve your mood!
Top 5 Stress-Causing Foods
- Processed sugar. Yeah yeah, you’ve heard how horrible processed sugar is for your health, your waistline, and your health over and over again. But it is also one of the biggest culprits for your feeling totally stressed out with work and life. Processed sugar is mega inflammatory, and inflammation in your body causes a whole slew of physical and mental symptoms (like pain, headaches, stomach issues, weight, anxiety, depression, and stress). Additionally, it spikes your insulin levels, which leads to an inevitable blood sugar crash and the corresponding mood swings, bouts of anxiety, and significantly heightened stress response. Are sweets your go-to stress relievers? Opt for a couple squares of high quality dark chocolate that does not have processed sugar, like Nibmor or Simply Light (which is sugar free!).
- Factory farmed meat. Your conventional, supermarket or restaurant meat is loaded with antibiotics, hormones, and other toxins that totally stress out your system and make it work overtime trying to detoxify itself. Factory farmed meat is super inflammatory and puts your body into an acidic state, which makes you much more susceptible to stress. Additionally, when you eat factory-farmed meat, you are eating unhealthy flesh that has been tortured, fed poor quality feed, and confined without exercise. There is substantial research that shows that the old adage of “we are what we eat” holds true — when you eat something that lived in a perpetual state of stress, anxiety and poor health, it is going to impact your own stress and anxiety levels and health. Always opt for organic, free-range, grass-fed, and antibiotic-free meat, and make sure it doesn’t make up more than 20% of your diet. Don’t want to pay the price for high quality meat? Go vegetarian!
- Factory farmed dairy. Pretty much ditto for all of the above — factory farmed dairy has tons of growth hormones, antibiotics and toxicity. It is inflammatory, acidic, and as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also very mucous-producing and upsetting to your digestive tract. Even if you’re not lactose-intolerant, most human adults just don’t do well with conventional dairy, and get symptoms like bloating, loose stool, headaches, and even anxiety from regular consumption. How’s that for stressful? Always go for organic dairy from grass-fed cows. Raw, unpasteurized dairy is best, if you can get it. But if you suffer from headaches, anxiety, or any kind of digestive issue, going dairy-free is highly recommended.
- Processed conventional wheat. By now you’ve heard all about the evils of gluten (if you’ve been under a rock, check out What’s All the Buzz About Gluten?), but research is showing that it’s not specifically gluten that’s the big bad, but conventional processed wheat. I though I was gluten-intolerant for ages, but in the last couple of years I started eating Ezekiel bread (which has sprouted wheat, among a bunch of other great grains) and Mestemacher natural rye and pumpernickel breads, and low and behold! No symptoms! Conventional wheat is sprayed with tons of pesticides and insecticides, which are huge stressors on your body, and can lead to pain, joint swelling, bloat and gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, depression and anxiety. And when your body is dealing with all that, it’s certainly not going to be able to handle normal stressors with any amount of calm and balance. Opt for sprouted wheat, or avoid wheat altogether in favor of delicious grains like rye, quinoa, brown rice, millet, and amaranth.
- Processed, unfermented soy. Soy has been getting a really bad rap of late, and for a good reason. The majority of soy eaten in America is processed and unfermented. Processed soy is typically genetically modified (and GMO’s have been linked to depression and anxiety, among other health problems), and sprayed with tons of chemicals. Our bodies are just not designed to deal with those factors, and digesting them regularly puts a huge amount of strain on the system. Healthy forms of soy are fermented, like organic tempeh, natto, wheat-free tamari (organic) and miso are cleaner, easier to digest, and have lower estrogenic effects on the body. Avoid eating any processed soy like tofu, soy sauce, soy milk, fake meats and cheeses, soy protein, protein bars, and even edamame.
- Stress early in life leads to adulthood anxiety and preference for ‘comfort foods’ (sciencedaily.com)
- Eating Fish During Pregnancy Lowers Stress (medindia.net)
- 5 Foods That Cause Stress (Clean Plates)