Diet and Stress Connection

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,092
    Nutrition Expert Elizabeth Blumberg discusses diet and stress connection.

    Elizabeth Blumberg: Hi! I am Elizabeth Blumberg and I'm talking about understanding the connection between nutrition and stress. Now I would like to get into a little more detail about your diet and how, in fact, the foods that you choose can change the way in which your body responds to stress.

    We'll begin by looking at high stress foods. The food that comes at the top of list, and I actually hesitate to even call it a food is sugar. Sugar is the most simple form of a carbohydrate. Sugar is found in everything from cakes and cookies to candy, all these sweet treats that you most commonly associate sugar with.

    Now, unfortunately when we are under stress, we want sugar. So this is a problem. Unfortunately, consuming a lot of sugar, in fact, makes our stress levels actually worse. In fact, our bodies can actually become deficient and the vitamins and minerals that we need in order to fight off the stressors.

    Other foods that are in the carbohydrate category that are also very stressful for the body are processed carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrate include white bread, white pasta, white rice, and even white potatoes at times. Even through they're not a technically a processed food. These foods break down to sugars very quickly in our body. Again, when we're under stress our bodies are flooded with all that fat and sugar, when you eat more simple sugars, it adds fuel to fire and it makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize. So you end up storing a lot of those unused sugars as fats in the belly section.

    Speaking of fat. Fat is also a very specific to understanding your stress. There are good fats and bad fats. In the high stressed category, let's look at the bad fats. Saturated fats is probably a pretty familiar term. Saturated fat is a solid fat at room temperature. In fact, it is a damaged fat that can cause a lot of problems for heart health and certainly can promote weight gain. Examples of saturated fats include fried foods, gravy fatty meats, and even whole fat dairy products. The body goes under a greater amount of stress when it tries to metabolize these kinds of damaged fats.

    Now, hydrogenated fats are processed fats that are actually chemically processed in fact, and they are found often times in processed foods, margarine as well as commercial peanut butter. This is done from a commercial and marketing standpoint to preserve the integrity or the shelf-life of that food, but unfortunately it has a huge impact on our bodies or digestion or heart health and then of course our levels of stress.

    Caffeine, is certainly something that can be consumed by some. In fact most. However, when you are experiencing a lot of stress, caffeine can actually further complicate the way your body responds. In very sensitive individuals, it's actually been shown that caffeine can in fact increase your blood sugars, therefore even potential leading to an insulin stimulating response and we know a lot about insulin. We know that insulin can lead to weight gain in the midsection.

    Now we have a better understanding about high stress foods, but what about the low stress foods? There are a wide range of them. First, in the complex carbohydrate category, we've whole grains. They're full of vitamins and minerals, including fiber that help your body stabilize blood sugars and also promote energy in a quick flow. Foods and vegetables are also excellent sources of carbohydrates and soybeans and lentils.

    The next group of foods that are extremely important are the lean proteins. In fact, your adrenal glands thrives off of the consumption of lean protein. Such as turkey, chicken, lean meat, fish, sea food, and even low fat dairy products.

    Then we have healthy fats. Healthy fats are known as essential fatty acids. These essential fats are very important during times of stress. They include olive oil, canola oil and they also include Omega-3 fatty acids. Such as those found in salmon, walnuts, almond, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds and even foods such as avocado, and hummus are excellent sources of healthy essential fats. Next, we're going to talk about portion control, meal timing, and meal combination for stress management.