The saying "you are what you eat" can explain why we might feel bloated, lethargic, and gassy after a pie of pizza or a double bacon cheeseburger. Unfortunately, food can make us stressed and change our disposition when we chow down on certain ingredients that are wired to rile us up, dampen our moods, and make us anxious, irritable or fatigued.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on managing their stress and not letting emotions and negative thoughts get the best of them. Of course, being stressed is natural, and I'm sure we can all admit to being stressed from time to time (perhaps even on a daily basis, in this busy, high-intensity, fast-paced world we live in). Yet, when stresses become too prevalent and chronic over time, where our levels of cortisol are higher than usual, it can lead to fatigue, muscle aches, and imbalanced eating and appetite patterns, such as over-eating or under-eating, advises personal trainer and owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning, Todd Nief, who is based in Chicago, over email with Bustle. Plus, this rise in cortisol can encourage fat storage, which can make us feel bloated, tired and unlike ourselves, he notes. Certain foods can trigger such expressions, and so it's best to avoid these 9 foods and drinks that can make us stressed AF and mess with our wellbeing.
1. Sugary Breakfasts
"Eating a surgery or unhealthy breakfast can make you sluggish as it leads to sugar crashes," says Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director of BeWell Medicine, over email with Bustle. "An unhealthy breakfast runs a higher chance of irritability or restlessness, decrease in concentration, and makes you more likely to overeat throughout the day," she adds. She explains how a sugary, unhealthy breakfast can set you up for a stressful day ahead, and so it's best to eat healthier options bright and early.
Over email with Bustle, personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer explains how caffeine can cause jitteriness and irritability in some people, especially in those who are prone to anxiety or even have an anxiety disorder. "Caffeine can worsen stress symptoms," Lemmer explains. "If you want to stay anxiety free, or if you are prone to anxiety, you might want to be mindful about the amount of caffeine you consume," says licensed marriage and family therapist Erika Fay, LMFT, over email with Bustle. Switch to decaf coffee or tea, or even just drink plain ol' H20. Or, you can start small, and cut yourself off at after one cup or two in the AM.
3. Granola Bars
Unless these granola bars are DIY, made with natural, wholesome ingredients, or are low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and high in fiber and protein based on label ingredients on packaged products, then often protein bars, breakfast bars, granolas and cereals are high in sugar, both natural and artificial, and low in nutrition, advises Lemmer. She recommends reading labels carefully or making your own to keep sugar in check, as it "can exacerbate stress."
It might be smart to put down the booze when you're feeling the pressure at work. While we often think that alcohol will calm our nerves and make us feel better, a study found in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research says that alcohol can prolong feelings of stress, rather than helping to lift our moods and help us get our stress under control.
5. French Fries
Heather Bauer, R.D., founder of Bestowed.com, told the Huffington Post in interview that salty, high-fat foods can increase cortisol, leading to more intense cravings (for more of these foods!), fat storage, and greater levels of prolonged stress. French fries have both trans fats and salt, and of course, they are delicious; however, your mood might suffer after eating them.
6. Chili Peppers
Bauer also explains how spicy foods, such as chili peppers and wasabi, and condiments, like tabasco sauce, can exacerbate symptoms of stress and anxiety, and they can affect people primarily with digestive issues, leading to abdominal discomfort and a slower metabolic process. Ditch the spiciness when stressed or having tummy troubles, and have citrus or fresh herbs for flavoring instead.
7. Potato Chips
Unless you're making your own baked potato chips (sweet potato!) or kale or lentil chips, many packaged chip products contain hydrogenated oil, or trans fats, and are sneakily hidden on many labels. When trans fats is 0%, check the list for the key word "hydrogenated oil," and see if it's there. Consuming trans fats can increase your risk of depression by as much as 48 percent, as shown in a study published in PLOS ONE and it can lead to greater anxiety and stress, as shown in a study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
8. Canned Soup
Certified nutritionist Trudy Scott, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution says over interview with Eat This, Not That! that canned soups are often loaded with sodium and processing additives, one being BPA, or rather Bisphenol A, a chemical used in canned liners and plastic packaging, and it can have damaging affects on health and wellbeing, especially of children.
Your morning OJ or post-workout juice might be making you more stressed in the day, due to high sugar and refined, carbohydrate content. Over interview with Shape, Cynthia Sass, registered dietician, explains how sugar and refined carbs can make us more stressed out, and many juices are plain sugar in a cup. Thus, make your own with lots of veggies and fruits that are low in sugar, or check labels to find a healthier pick.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or stress, it might be wise to avoid these foods and eat healthier picks, such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa, whole grains, beans and legumes. Thus, be mindful of what to eat during this time in order to tame the stress and start feeling happier and in control.
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