We all have heard of stress eating, right? Well if you have not heard, simply put, it is when you eat out of stress in order to destress, which is completely innate for humans. When our stress levels are high our body’s job is to maintain homeostasis, the optimal balance throughout our body. When our stress levels are high, eating is one mechanism to help create homeostasis. But have you heard of eat-stressing? I may or may not have coined this term, but it's a thing. This is when your body is in stress due to what you eat (or not eat).
To clarify, these three tips will not remove all the stress in your life neither is it causing all the stressors in your life (because let's be honest, adulting is hard and it is not just because the food we eat or lack there of). Our stress comes from more than just what we eat, but as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I can help you navigate ways to reduce your stress through food.
So while we can’t avoid inevitable stressful situations try to implement these nutrition habits that may help reduce stress to your body,
It sounds simple right? The institute of medicine recommends about 11 cups for females and 15 cups for males daily. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) from 2005-2010, young adults consumed an average of 2 cups a day! When we are dehydrated that causes an increase in our cortisol levels, a hormone, which leads to stress, so stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink when you are thirsty, so check-in with your thirst cues (level of thirst) every hour or so.
Limit added sugars.
Added sugars are any sugars that are not naturally occurring in a food or beverage product.Typical forms of added sugars include sugar cane, molasses, agave, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar in the raw. We frequently ingest added sugars from sweetened sugar beverages (SSB), desserts, and packaged goods. Try satisfying your sweet tooth by consuming foods that have naturally occurring sugars like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products more often. Added sugar, like dehydration spikes up the stress hormone, cortisol, so limit your added sugars
Beware of Sodium Chloride.
Sodium Chloride, also known as, salt can also increase stress levels...as well as decrease. Consuming too much salt can cause dehydration and we already know how that impacts the body. Furthermore, salt retains fluid which leads to increased blood pressure. But during periods of stress, hormones like aldosterone are elevated, which is are also released when our sodium levels are low. So naturally we want to consume salty foods to balance out our hormones. Be conscious of food that are high in salt like cured meats, processed meats, canned goods, and sauces. The daily recommended intake for salt is no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon, and for those who have cardiovascular disease it is recommended to be even lower at 1,500 mg per day. It is important to note, too low of a salt intake can induce anxiety and could be potentially dangerous as this can lead to hyponatremia, low sodium in blood levels.
Our foods are not the sole causes to our stress but the foods we eat can help manage it. Drink plenty of water, eat more foods with natural sugars other than added sugars, and consume an adequate (but not too much) amount of sodium.
These are general recommendations and our bodies react differently from acute stress versus chronic stress. If you have personal medically-related concerns reach out to your medical health provider.