Greatly Reduce Stress By Eating The Right Foods

Rebecca Pound

Have you ever noticed how stress affects your eating habits? Many people start reaching for snacks when they are under stress, and usually, their snack choices are not healthy: sugary sweet or high in starch, quick boosts of carbs are the typical go-to of a high-stress situation. Unfortunately, this habit simply promotes a never-ending cycle of stress by incapacitating the body’s ability to respond well to stress.

Mechanisms of Stress

Stress is basically the body’s response to unexpected unpleasant circumstances. Sudden, short-term stress (like a frightening experience) produces a release of adrenaline in order to facilitate the fight or flight response. Prolonged stress, caused by too much pressure or consistent unsettling circumstances prolongs the production of adrenaline and cortisone, exposing the body to higher stress-related hormones for an extended period of time. As a result, other hormones in the body become unbalanced, and the result can be added symptoms, such as:

  • Depression
  • Weight Gain
  • Digestive Issues
  • Heart Disease
  • Anxiety

The Carbohydrate Trap

So, why is it that people turn to carbohydrates when they are under stress? The answer lies in an important neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that is released by eating carbohydrates. At first glance, this may seem like a good thing, if you feel stressed, eat carbohydrates, your body produces more serotonin, and you feel happy again. However, serotonin also bring about drowsiness, one of the reasons for the sugar-low that is common. Additionally, the intake of simple carbohydrates has been shown to suppress the immune system, over-work the adrenal system, and create a vicious cycle of crave and crash.

Nervous System Havoc

Exposing the body to repeated high doses of certain hormones as a result of stress takes a toll on the entire nervous system. Research demonstrates that many chronic diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma, can be traced to a hormonal imbalance that is likely triggered by stress. Because diet plays a large role in hormone imbalance, stress-related carbohydrate binging wreaks further havoc on the nervous system and hormone production in the body, further perpetuating the cycle of unwellness.

Feed the Brain

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine are just a few of the neurotransmitters in the body that help maintain balance, deal with pain, and regulate emotions. These critical substances are created in the body using amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Although the body builds many amino acids itself, some of them are only available through the diet. This means that improper diet can lead to amino acid deficiency, and ultimately, deficiency of the neurotransmitters. Where do we get these amino acids? From proteins. Protein foods are made up of amino acids which your body uses to create neurotransmitters which help combat stress.

So, what are the best foods for dealing with stress? Proteins and antioxidant rich foods. Proteins provide the amino acids needed to maintain hormone levels, while antioxidants help combat the effects of stress on the body. Unfortunately, these are not typically the go-to foods when you are under stress. But, anyone can develop new habits. Just as exercise is not fun at first, changing your go-to foods takes discipline.

Snack for Health

Snacks in themselves are not bad things, but the types of food we snack on is important. If you are feeling stressed, skip the doughnuts and potato chips. Instead try some of these choices:

  • Protein Snacks: almond or peanut butter, cottage cheese, nuts, yogurt
  • Antioxidant Snacks: berries, fruits, and vegetables

What’s a great stress-combatting snack? Try combining apples dipped in peanut butter, yogurt with fresh berries, or cottage cheese and some veggies – the combination of protein and antioxidants is the perfect antidote for the stress-related blues.

Sources for this article include:

About the Author: Ever since receiving her Master Herbalist certificate in 1999, Rebecca Pound has continued pursuing a knowledge of health, herbs, natural healing, and healthy eating. She has also worked as a health consultant. Rebecca currently works as a volunteer serving underprivileged people in Central America, while nurturing her interest in health through research and writing. To read more articles by Rebecca, please visit
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This entry was posted in Anxiety, Arthritis, Asthma, Disease, Food, Health and Wellness, Heart Disease, Immune System, Stress, Weight Loss and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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