Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

Healthy Eating and Stress

November 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Inflammation in your body can be caused by factors that can sometimes be monitored, such as stress and diet. Inflammation leads to several types of health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, periodontal disease, heart disease, and stroke. Typically, you can keep the inflammation in your body down by eating a healthy diet, but research recently suggests that just a healthy diet may not be enough to conquer inflammation.

Stress vs. a Healthy Diet

Studies have recently been conducted to show the impact that stress has on overall health, even with a healthy diet. During this study, women were given a healthy meal or an unhealthy meal before answering questions that assessed their symptoms of depression over the previous week and over the previous 24 hours.

Women with low stress levels had increased levels of inflammation following an unhealthy meal, but normal levels of inflammation after a healthy meal. Stressed women had elevated inflammation regardless of their meal.

Women who had a history of depression also had higher blood pressure levels after their meal than those with no history of depression.

In a 2015 study, researchers also found that stress is associated with changes in metabolic responses, resulting in weight gain. This shows how stress and depression are able to alter one’s metabolic responses to unhealthy foods, resulting in weight gain.

Eating Junk Food During Stressful Times

This does not mean that it is pointless to eat healthy foods during stressful periods. Certain healthy foods help improve one’s mood and decrease stress, but nearly 40% of Americans admit to eating in an unhealthy manner when they are stressed.

Eating junk food only make stress worse. For example, women who report chronic stress who also eat unhealthy foods have concerning health effects, such as a larger waistline, increased stomach fat, insulin resistance, and more oxidative damage.

Junk food in combination with stress is especially dangerous, as women with low levels of stress who ate similar foods didn’t exhibit such extreme changes during the study.

While many believe that all calories are equal, this study suggests that different foods can affect metabolic responses differently, based on the consumer’s level of stress.

The Effect of Stress on Health

Stress is a trigger for inflammation, and it may counteract some benefits of healthy eating. Stress affects your entire body, but certain health conditions are either caused or worsened by stress, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Frequent colds
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Hypertension
  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Infertility and irregular cycles
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems and dysbiosis
  • Difficulty concentrating

Additionally, stress impacts your gut, which can also lead to inflammation. When it comes to nutrition, stress can:

Decrease the nutrients you body absorbs
Decrease oxygenation to your gut
Reduce blood flow to your digestive system
Decrease metabolism
Decrease the output on enzymes

Foods that Combat Stress

Because your diet can affect your mood, one of the worst things you do during a stressful time is to eat unhealthy foods. Inflammation disrupts the proper functioning of the immune system in the long run, which is linked higher rates of depression. Sugar and grains contribute to insulin and leptin resistance, which in turn negatively affects mental health.

Here are some foods that are beneficial to eat during stressful times.

Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens help your body produce serotonin and dopamine, which help to regulate your mood. One study found that people who consumed a lot of folate, which is a nutrient in leafy greens, had a decreased rate of depression. Research also shows that eating fruits and vegetables helps young adults keep their nerves calm.

Fermented Foods

Gut health is greatly linked to brain health, and poor gut health can lead to anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria in the gut has a direct positive effect on brain chemistry and mood. For example, the probiotic Lactobacillus has shown to have a significant effect on GABA levels, and is able to lower corticosterone, a stress hormone.

Cold Water Fish

Cold water fish, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, have an animal-based omega-3 fat that plays a role in positive moods and emotions. Studies have revealed a dramatic reduction in anxiety in people who take omega-3 supplements, while other research has proven that omega-3 fatsact as antidepressants without any side effects.

If you fail to address your everyday stress, it can grow out of proportion and impact your mental and physical health. It can also decrease your ability to be productive both at home and at work and enjoy life. While occasional stress is healthy and normal, chronic stress is damaging.

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Frank Salvatore