You’ve heard the saying “You are what you eat.” Well, what you eat can make you act a certain way. In fact, workplace stress can be exacerbated by the foods you eat.
Why? “Certain foods increase insulin release,” explains Dr. Barry Sears creator of the Zone Diet. “The increase in insulin causes the production of inflammatory hormones that force the adrenal glands to release more cortisol, a stress hormone, to reduce the inflammation. Excess insulin also drives down blood sugar levels forcing the adrenal glands to increase the release of cortisol to try to raise blood sugar levels in the normal range.”
Laurie Erdman, CEO of The Ignite Well Being Institute, adds, ”These foods create stress because they contribute to feelings of anxiety, mood swings, brain fog and energy highs and lows. These highs and lows slow us down and make us get behind on our to-do list creating more stress.”
Just as some foods can increase stress, others help reduce stress. “There are certain nutrients --magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and essential fats-- our body needs for proper brain, neurological and muscular function,” Erdman points out. “These nutrients improve hormonal function and thus our stress resilience meaning they help us relax, think clearly and recover from excess cortisol production.”
Dr. Sears offers, “They reduce cellular inflammation that causes the increased release of stress hormones like cortisol from the adrenal glands.”
Stress Inducers: Foods to Avoid
Besides caffeine drinks such as coffee, there are other items to avoid. “Cut out white carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice and potatoes) and vegetable oils containing omega-6 fatty acids,” explains Dr. Sears..
Mediterranean diet expert Stella Metsovas adds, “You definitely want to stay far, far away from sugars and alcohol. Top foods to stay clear from: sweetened beverages, fried foods and sodium.”
Stress Reducers: Foods to Eat
• Turkey. The tryptophan in turkey is an amino acid that increases serotonin production, which in turn alleviates stress. But don’t overdo the turkey—too much can make you sluggish.
• Dark Leafy Vegetables. Greens such as spinach and kale have magnesium, which is a relaxing agent.
• Nuts and Seeds. Snack on pumpkin seeds, which is also high in magnesium, says Metsovas. Munch on walnuts, which are a great source of Omega 3s. Also add cashews and sunflower seeds, both of which have relaxing tryptophan.
• Yam, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots. They all have high levels of potassium, which is shown to reduce blood pressure.
• Fruits. Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, as well as papaya are great way because of their vitamin C. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure
• Salmon. All the experts say salmon is a must because it is loaded with Omega 3 essential fatty acids. It promotes blood flow and increase serotonin production. And makes your brain work better.