You are what you eat. You’ve probably heard this statement before, but there is more to it than you might have digested. The kinds of foods we eat can be directly linked to the lesser or greater levels of stress we feel on any given day. Consider how dehydration can negatively affect a person’s mood and you will come close to understanding just how much the foods we eat can determine if we have good or bad days.
Do Comfort Foods Increase Stress Levels?
If you think of what an All-American diet is like, burgers and fries might probably come to mind. Foods that are high in carbohydrates provide us with readily-available energy in the form of blood sugar spikes that can seem to have a comforting effect. However, this doesn’t last for very long as our blood sugar drops and we begin feeling tired and possibly moody. The high fat content of most comfort foods doesn’t help either, increasing chances of weight gain and heart disease.
Comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, ice cream and pizza might be delicious, but they can actually lead to hormonal changes in women that have been linked to depression. Men have hormones too and can be affected just as easily as women can be. The highs and lows of these fluctuations in blood sugar and hormones aren’t as drastic in men, so they aren’t felt as severely. However, there can be a significant increase in moodiness and stress levels just the same.
Eating to Reduce Stress
The next meal you have should be a deliberate attempt to nourish and revitalize your body as well as relax your nervous system. Scientific research has established that there is a link between eating foods that are high in fiber and reducing stress levels. There has also been an established knowledge of how stress causes certain changes in the digestive system involving gut bacteria that can cause changes in behavior. Once again, these changes are associated in many ways with hormones produced in the human body.
A diet consisting of foods that are rich in fiber can have a positive effect on the nervous system indirectly by influencing the chemistry of the gut, or digestive system. Since hormonal well being concerns gender, the most effective health supplements are gender-specific. Companies that make supplements for weight loss and improved mood remember this. Le-Vel Thrive produces supplements that are mixed differently for women than for men. They have amino acids, enzymes, minerals, plant extracts and antioxidants carefully mixed to benefit both men and women in different ways.
Stick to Good Sugar
It’s not so hard to avoid eating foods that promote stress by causing hormonal fluctuations, high blood pressure and mood swings due to blood sugar highs and lows. Eating foods and drinking beverages that are free from processed sugar can stabilize the mood and reduce feelings of anxiety.
If you feel like a rush of sugar, go the healthy way. Bananas, apples, strawberries, watermelons and other fresh fruit all have natural, healthy sugar that lifts the mood and doesn’t lead to crashes later. If you want to sweeten your tea, lemonade or other hot or cold beverages, use sweeteners like agave nectar, stevia or raw unbleached sugar (if you really want sugar). You can sweeten your coffee with these too, but remember to use caffeine in moderation. Too much can trigger hormonal fluctuations that can cause severe mood swings.
In general, diets that are low in refined carbohydrates, low in processed oils and high in fiber will improve a person’s mood significantly. One of the positive things about eating for your mental health is that many of the natural foods that can improve your health as well as your mood are found in the produce section. Produce is significantly cheaper than meats and highly processed packaged foods. Following a healthier, more natural diet can save you both stress and money.