Stress is the reaction of the body to a specific stimulus.(1) Stress is perhaps the most common problems that many people are faced with today.(1) Stress causes a plethora of physical and mental problems. Among the many causes that result in stress, an unhealthy eating habit tops the list. Along with stress, eating unhealthy also causes many other health problems. If stress is not addressed on time, then it also impacts the metabolism of the body. Increased metabolic rate results in increased frequency of urination through which many vital nutrients are lost from the body.
If an individual is under stress constantly there is a substantial increase in the level of cortisol produced by the body.(3) This aids in the fight or flight response the body is constantly in when stressed. This again results in various health concerns like unintentional weight gain to even a substantial rise in blood sugar levels.
The diet that we consume everyday plays an important role in increasing or decreasing the amount of stress that the body is in. These foods are medically termed as sympathomimetics due to their impact on the nervous system of the body. It is the nervous system that reacts when the body is under stress. This article gives an overview of some of the foods that increase stress.
What Foods Trigger Stress?
According to various studies the following food products are believed to increase stress levels in the body.
Sugar: Sweet In Taste, But Harmful And Waste
When the body is under stress, it increases the production of cortisol.(3) Cortisol is responsible for managing the sugar levels in the body. Thus an increase in sugar intake will increase the blood sugar levels. This will prompt the body to produce more cortisol to take care of the increased sugar levels.(5) An increased production of cortisol then impacts the sleep of the individual. The immunity of the body also gets severely affected.(6) This ultimately results in symptoms that are quite similar to stress like heightened anxiety. Thus, it is important to limit the intake of sugary foods like pastries, cake and soda to decrease stress.
Artificial Sweeteners: A Big No-No For Stress
As is with excess sugar, artificial sweeteners are also bad for health and increase stress levels.(7) To add to this, people often crave foods made out of artificial sweeteners. This severely impacts the metabolic activity of the body along with giving rise to headaches and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases if consumed for prolonged periods of time. Artificial sweeteners are also quite addictive and cause an individual to eat more sugar than normal, which is again bad for overall health. One prominent side effect of artificial sweeteners is an increased level of stress.
An artificial sweetener by the name of Aspartame is said to be an active ingredient of about 5000 food products and around 500 medications, although it has a side effect of mood disorders, manic episodes and headaches similar to migraines.(8) This is apart from spiking up the blood sugar levels in the body. Thus it is best to avoid artificial sweeteners to keep stress at bay.
Processed Carbohydrates: Tasty, But Bad For Stress
Although good for the taste buds, processed carbohydrates are not good for the overall health of the body. They are of no value when it comes to providing nutrition. Furthermore, processed carbohydrates cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which lead to increased anxiety and stress levels.  Additionally, processed carbohydrates have sodium in abundance, which is again not good for the health. Sodium causes fluid retention and an increase in blood pressure.(9) Thus, it is best to avoid packaged foods which contain processed carbs to prevent stress.
Alcohol: May Numb Your Stress Before Increasing It
Alcohol may sound relaxing for many people after a hard day at work, but in actuality alcohol is the biggest inducer of stress. This is because any form of alcohol increases the production of stress hormones resulting in heightened anxiety and fear over a period of time. (10) Alcohol also affects the blood pressure and accelerates the pulse, which prompts a stress reaction in the body. Alcoholic beverages also have added sugars in them which again aggravate the stress reaction. Additionally, some people are of the belief that alcohol helps in sleeping. Even though the individual might be able to get to sleep, but the quality of sleep due to alcohol is extremely poor and the individual may not get a restful sleep required by the body for functioning the next day. Thus, it is better to stay away from alcohol or drink it in moderation to avoid any kind of stress.
Excessive Caffeine: Helps In Alertness, But Bad For Stress
Caffeine also plays a significant role in increasing stress in the body.(11) Having a cup of coffee or tea a day is quite normal, but if an individual has a habit of drinking several cups of coffee a day, then it can spark off a stress reaction over a period of time. Excessive caffeine over stimulates the body and the nervous system in particular triggering off a stress mechanism.(11) Caffeine also tends to increase the blood pressure, which ultimately makes an individual more anxious than normal. Caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also in certain energy drinks, tea, soft drinks, and some pain medications and above all in chocolate. Thus, it is advisable to stay away from caffeine as much as possible to ward off any stress in the body.
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