Stress is inevitable—and uncomfortable. There are many ways to reduce and manage stress, but we don’t always have time for meditation or a relaxing massage. However, even when there’s no time for stress management, there is still one thing you can do—support your body by avoiding foods that have been shown to exacerbate stress.
If you’re under stress, just say no to the following:
Sugar: Refined sugar is like a roller coaster ride—it results in a quick spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a drastic crash. Riding the sugar roller coaster will leave you feeling tired and irritable. Sugar consumption can be a vicious cycle; the more you eat, the more you’ll crave. The resulting spikes and dips in blood sugar levels can quickly deplete a body and immune system that is already under stress.
It’s best to avoid sugar altogether. If you can’t resist sugar’s sweet siren call, be sure to consume it in small portions and pair it with other foods such as proteins that can help regulate blood sugar levels. (To learn more, see The Truth About Sugar.)
Caffeine: If you’re one of those people who can’t officially start the day until you’ve had your morning cup of coffee, it may be time for an intervention. Caffeine is a stimulant, as evidenced by your daily desire for a morning jolt. However, by stimulating the central nervous system, caffeine also increases stress levels. You may experience a hyperactive feeling, but it’s usually followed by a crash, irritation, and stress.
Consider weaning yourself off of the caffeine and switching to herbal tea. The stress will still be there, but you’ll feel calmer.
Preservatives: Most processed and packaged foods are loaded with preservatives such as salt and MSG. When we’re stressed and in a hurry, we typically reach for processed foods because they’re easy. But the preservatives in these foods raise our blood pressure, thereby increasing our stress levels. It’s better to avoid them and reach for something healthier instead. You may not be craving an apple, but your body and your stress levels will thank you.
Alcohol: Alcohol presents a confusing conundrum—it’s a depressant and it seems to relax you, so how could it possibly increase stress levels? Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and can eliminate the phases of deep sleep. After drinking, we typically experience fragmented, poor-quality sleep characterized by wakefulness. This creates a vicious cycle of chronic stress and anxiety. Furthermore, excess alcohol consumption can lead to chronic health problems and addiction.
If you’re stressed, do yourself a favor and avoid the alcohol.