Stress-Eating 101: Why Your Anxiety Loves Sugar
A deep dive into the detrimental effects of sugar on your brain, and what you should eat instead.
During times of distress, you may be tempted to open up that third sleeve of thin mint Oreos, and I do not blame you. As the CEO of stress-eating, I had to learn the hard way that sugar will only wreak havoc on your body and leave you feeling worse. Let's make one thing clear: anxiety is a mental health issue, and it is very unlikely for your diet to cause it. However, consumption of sugar has been proven to worsen symptoms of anxiety and impair your body's response to stress.
Foods high in sugar release a substantial amount of serotonin (the happy hormone), which is why stress-eating is even a thing. But what you might not know is that when you are feeling stressed or anxious, your body has higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which in turn causes your body to suppress the release of insulin, the hormone that takes up glucose to use for energy. This leaves you with an excess amount of sugar that your body would have naturally had already flowing and leads to more severe drops in your mood (and blood sugar levels). Now for most people, sugar highs and crashes are usually only felt after an excess of sugar consumption. However, individuals battling anxiety tend to become hypersensitive to their bodies, and these sugar highs and lows can cause one to feel irritable and shaky— exacerbating feelings of anxiety.
It is important to recognize that your mind and body are so deeply connected, and changing your stress eating habits might make all the difference. Treat your body with love and care, and give yourself what you need to feel good.
Here are some foods with brain boosting properties that can help reduce anxiety
Salmon contains various properties that promote brain health, including vitamin D, which has been linked to improving levels of calming neurotransmitters, and the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which may promote your brain's ability to handle stressors that trigger anxiety symptoms.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonols which may improve brain function by improving blood flow to the brain and promoting its ability to adapt to stressful situations.
Probiotic foods such as yogurt may promote mental health and brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins.
Matcha is very rich in the amino acid L-theanine, which has been found to have positive effects on brain health and anxiety reduction.
While incorporating these foods in your diet even a few times a week may help with anxiety symptoms, remember that this is not a perfect practice. Everyone's body is different, and you should not shame or punish yourself for your eating choices. If chocolate cake seems damn good in the moment, have a slice! Do what feels right for you, but most importantly, remember to take care of yourself because health is wealth, and you deserve that.
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