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Friday, February 24, 2012

Stress Eating

Most of us do it. 

It's the end of another tough work day and you reach for something to eat to calm yourself down. 

Your kids are having one of those days and you are at your wit's end, so you pop something in your mouth to relax.

The bills are piling up and you throw down something you really shouldn't--but you deserve it, right?

What are these foods that we use as our stress-reducers?  Donuts?  Cookies?  Ice cream?  Sure, they make us feel good as we eat them, but then what?  We think about how we really shouldn't have eaten so much.  And in not too much time will come the crash.

In her article on CNN's website, Amanda Enayati writes that it makes total sense that we want to eat these kinds of foods to help to reduce stress--they're full of carbs and carbs make the brain produce more serotonin--a "happy" hormone.  But you know that these kinds of foods aren't good for your general health and the sugar crash will end up making your feel even worse.

Maybe you reach for some caffeine, but that doesn't help either.  It also leads to a crash and dehydrates you, which can lead to even more stressful feelings.

Enayati explains that the thought that stress leads to weight gain has some truth to it.  Many, if not most of us spend our day sitting--not getting even the least bit of exercise.  When you eat these sugary things and remain static all day, much of the sugar goes to fat cells.  So eating to reduce stress can very easily lead to a bigger waistline.

So what are we to do?  Are there any foods that we can snack on that will help us to reduce the stress we're feeling, but not making our bodies unhealthy and fat?  Sure there are.

In order to reduce stress, we need to find foods that will increase the "happy" hormones and reduce the "stress" hormones.  Having some of these healthy snacks handy will help not to have donuts or candy tempt you.

Eat complex carbohydrates.  All carbs push the brain to create the serotonin that makes us feel good.  But complex carbs are better to eat because they digest slowly and keep your blood sugar levels more stable.  Some examples are oatmeal, whole grains, high-fiber bread, pasta, beans, sweet potatoes, fruit.

Crunchy veggies are a great way to not only eat healthy, but the crunching actually reduces the feeling of stress in  your jaw.

Foods with "good" fat--nuts, salmon, avocado, for example--and those rich in Vitamin C help to control and reduce "stress" hormones.  Plus, Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system, which often is running low when you're stressed.

Tea--especially green tea--if full of the amino acid, theanine, which creates a calming effect and can lower blood pressure.

The bottom line, according to the experts referenced in the article, is to eat a healthy diet all the time. 
Ultimately, the big picture that emerges is much less about short-term solutions and more about creating a diet filled with less processed, more wholesome foods that can provide greater health, well-being and energy -- foods that can also help shore up the immune system by counteracting the pervasive stress in most of our lives.
By eating a healthy diet, your body will be better prepared for the stressful things that come along in your life.

Comments?  What are some of the foods that you look to when you're stressed?

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