How do foods help reduce stress?
The idea that all types of stress—including psychological stress, physical exertion, lack of sleep, etc.—are the same, or can be relieved by consumption of particular foods. We realize that some people try to reduce their stress by overeating, or by eating highly pleasurable treats. Although common sense tells us that our stress will only be made worse by unhealthy eating, we want to emphasize the importance of approaching stress with healthy changes rather than unhealthy ones.
We live in the era with busy lifestyle, no time to cook, no time to look out for healthy options to eat, no time to take care of your health. It simply means that we live in a “STRESSFUL” century. Now ofcourse when you have stress you find ways to deal with it. Dealing techniques can include listening to music, exercising, meditating, but most common of all is making yourself stressfree by eating foods that you like. Generally these foods are either High Carb, High Fat which is unhealthy, but these foods keep your mind, tongue and tummy satisfied and happy and thus you now term them as stress busters
Let’s see what some of the office going people have to say:
I am a Senior Executive in the Sales team of my Company. I have to achieve targets in the given time and the pressure I face cannot be explained. Food keeps me happy. I wait for Lunch time so that I can grab something like a burger, sandwich or franky which is quickly served so that I can relish it and it saves lot of time, Kushal Parekh from Mumbai
I have to finish my projects in 2 days of the time slot alloted. Its too much of pressure because generating ideas so quickly becomes very difficult, while I am working on computer I have coke or chips or sometimes mayo sandwich on my table because I feel so stressed and food somehow makes me feel good, Manish Ahuja, Club Manager from Mumbai
OMG !!! My Blood Report Says I have “STRESS DISEASE”
Stressful events—and they don’t even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life—cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. The more of them we eat, the worse our mood gets. As if that weren’t bad enough, the cortisol then makes more trouble for us, triggering an enzyme in our fat cells (it converts cortisone to more cortisol). Since our visceral fat cells (the ones in our abdomen, packed around our vital organs) have more of these enzymes than the subcutaneous fat cells (the fat on our thighs and butts, for example), stress causes many women to accumulate more belly fat. The more stress, the more this abdominal, or central, obesity occurs. Some research has found that these belly fat cells, which have been linked to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells.
Foods and drinks that can trigger and aggravate stress
Tea, coffee, cocoa, energy drinks
Fast foods and takeaways
Meat and shellfish
Soda, soft drinks and chocolate drinks
Almonds, macadamias and other nuts
There are many explanations for the cause-and-effect relationship between food and mood. The following are some examples:
- Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, and are affected by what we eat. Brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) influence the way we think, feel and behave. They can be affected by what we’ve eaten.
- There can be abnormal reactions to artificial chemicals in foods, such as artificial colourings and flavourings. There are reactions that can be due to the deficiency of an enzyme needed to digest a food.
- Lactase, for instance, is needed to digest lactose (milk sugar). Without it, a milk intolerance can build up. People can become hypersensitive to foods. This can cause what are known as delayed or hidden food allergies or sensitivities.
- Low levels of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can affect mental health, with some symptoms associated with particular nutritional deficiencies. For example, studies have demonstrated relationship between low levels of certain vitamins and symptoms of schizophrenia, low levels of the mineral zinc and eating disorders, and low levels of omega-3 oils and depression.
When we are stressed, our brains are often missing a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a calming chemical in our brain that makes us happy. There are foods that actually boost the serotonin levels in your brain. There are other foods that reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Both are hormones that negatively affect the body over a period of time and lead to higher stress levels. You can also relieve your stress levels through maintaining a well-balanced, nutritious diet. A healthy diet lowers blood pressure and boosts your immune system, ultimately leading to lower levels of stress.
Scientists are beginning to understand how this stress-related junk-food craving works. Stress increases the release of “endogenous opioids” in some brain regions. These neurotransmitters resemble opiates in their structure and addictive properties (and opiates work by stimulating the receptors that evolved for responding to the brain’s opioids). This helps to account for the hugely reinforcing properties of junk food at such times. Stress also activates the “endocannabinoid” system in the brain. Yes, there’s a class of chemicals in the brain that resemble the ingredient in cannabis that famously links pot to getting the munchies. And stress activates another brain chemical called neuropeptide Y that can stimulate the craving for fat and sugar. The most fundamental mechanism to explain this stress effect is that comfort food is, well, comforting. As first demonstrated by Mary Dallman and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, working with lab rats, fat and carbs stimulate reward systems in the brain, thereby turning off the body’s hormonal stress-response.
Let’s take a look at why does our mind crave for junk/ unhealthy food more during stress!!
Before you take a bite or grab your snack, stop for a second and pay attention to what you are really feeling. If you are genuinely hungry, tell yourself to reach for a healthier snack like a fruit or a handful of almonds. If you’re not hungry, try paying attention to what’s really bothering you. The next step in avoiding stress eating is dealing with the problem at hand. Figuring out what is stressing you out, whether it be a fight with a loved one, a problem at work, or just feeling generally overwhelmed, will help you to rationally deal with the problem. Let your emotions wash over you instead of trying to push them under the rug and mask them with food. Ignoring your stressors will only make them worse. Take a few minutes to think about all of the things that are causing you stress, and then try to tackle them one at a time. Another great tactic you can use to avoid stress eating is finding an activity you love that will take your mind off of the cravings. Try going for a walk, calling a friend, picking up a book, or doing anything you enjoy that will calm you down.
High-fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods: Scientists believe carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us. And lots of fiber is helpful in preventing late-night binging. Some examples of healthy comfort food include baked sweet potatoes, minestrone soup, or sautéed vegetables over rice.
Fruits and vegetables: Chronic stress can weaken our ability to fight disease. By upping our intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, we can boost our immune system. Acorn squash and carrots, for example, are great sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene. And citrus fruits provide plenty of vitamin C, another stress-busting antioxidant. Turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production, which helps alleviate stress. Add turkey to your morning omelet or slice it up into a salad at lunch. Spinach. This leafy vegetable is great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps promote a sense of calm. Spinach, which is a great source of fiber, also helps boost your energy levels. Opt for this instead of lettuce in your salad at lunch.
Salmon. This fish is full of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which help to boost serotonin production. The DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in Omega 3 fats help to nourish the brain while mitigating stress hormones. Plus, the Omega 3 in salmon can reduce inflammation and promote healthy blood flow, both of which are compromised with chronic stress. Enjoy wild Alaskan salmon up to three times a week.
Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are a rich source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids, which help reduce stress. Walnuts are one of the best sources of Omega 3s. Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin production and can take the edge off a stressful day. Have a handful of nuts as an afternoon snack.
Oatmeal. The complex carbohydrates in oatmeal help to boost serotonin production. Plus, oats have a lot of calming magnesium as well as potassium, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Have a bowl for breakfast with some walnuts and cashews, as well as some cinnamon to help stabilize your blood sugar, and you will on your way to a more tranquil day.
Citrus fruit. Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are a great way to get your vitamin C, which studies show reduces stress levels. Plus, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system. Have an orange in the afternoon for a calming and nourishing snack.
Sweet potatoes and carrots. Root vegetables are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, which can help to boost serotonin production. Plus, because they are subtly sweet, they can offset cravings for sugar. Sweet potatoes and carrots are also a great source of vitamins and minerals that are good for your blood pressure and your heart. Have a handful of baby carrots with some almond butter in the afternoon or a sweet potato with dinner a couple of times a week.
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