5 Foods That Might Be Causing You Stress
The modern world is filled with stress activators, whether it’s deadlines piling up at work, traffic jams during the school run, your mother-in-law staying for the weekend, or relationship problems. Unfortunately, stress has become “normal” and is a part of most people’s everyday lives. Since everybody gets a little stressed from time to time, we tend to brush it off like it’s just a part of life. But staying stressed for long periods can have real, tangible health consequences. Therefore, it’s important to get stress levels under control. While external stressors such as jobs and relationships can cause individuals to feel stressed out, certain foods we eat may also increase the risk of stress. Yes, that’s right - what you eat could be causing you stress, and could even be detrimental to your mental health. Here are five foods that you should avoid to minimize stress, especially if you’re going through a stressful time in your life right now.
1. Sugar and SweetenersSugar is one of the biggest instigators of all when it comes to stress. Whenever your body is experiencing stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol. Consuming refined sugars can cause cortisol levels to spike. Continuous and excess intake of high-sugar foods will also result in unstable blood sugar levels. When a person's blood sugar suddenly becomes high, an excess amount of cortisol is released - allowing cells to use sugar for energy. Consequently, blood sugar levels drop, sometimes to a lower level than prior to eating. This imbalance in blood sugar level can lead to sleep problems, decreased immune response, headaches, unhealthy food cravings, and, ultimately, stress. Processed sugar is not the only one to blame; artificial sweeteners are also bad for you. ‘Sugar-free’ products are often packed with “fake sugar” substitutes, and they can cause migraines and mood disorders. They also have a similar effect on your blood sugar. Instead of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, try out natural sugar alternatives such as stevia. Here are a few foods to avoid if you want to minimize your refined sugar intake:
- Sweets and pastries
- Flavored yogurt
2. AlcoholWe bet you knew this one would appear on the list. It does seem a bit contradictory, though, because many of us like to have a drink after a hard day at work to help us relax. At first glance, it seems that alcohol is a stress-buster rather than something that leads to stress. On the contrary, however, alcohol increases the production of stress-causing hormones. These hormones can leave you feeling more stressed and anxious, especially when your body starts to process the alcohol. Moreover, many alcoholic drinks are packed with sugar, which, as we now know, is detrimental to your health. And if you think you can just sleep off that stress, you’d be wrong. While you might fall asleep quickly after a glass of wine or two, alcohol often prevents you from getting the "healthy sleep" your body needs.
3. CaffeineOnce again, this probably seems conflicting. Many of us thrive on a cup of coffee (or two or three) to get us through the day at work. It makes us more productive and wakeful, and some people just can’t function without a steaming cup of joe in the morning. Don’t get us wrong; you don’t have to completely quit caffeine to feel less stressed. However, if you’re the type of person who drinks several cups of coffee a day, then you may need to cut back a bit. Caffeine can overstimulate the body's adrenal glands, raising blood pressure and increasing heart rate to unhealthy levels. Remember, though, caffeine is not just found in coffee. To cut back on caffeine, try avoiding:
- Energy drinks
- Most sodas
- Over-the-counter pain relievers