If you’ve spent a long day doing something horrible, it’s always tempting to slump onto the sofa with a bowlful of your favourite food. When times are tough, we like to think that something super tasty is the ultimate solution. In many ways, this is true. But, despite what we might like to think, some foods and drinks can have precisely the opposite effect of what may have been intended.
For many different reasons, several seemingly innocent foods can actually be a leading cause of stress. In many cases, you may not know that it is happening, but the impact is undeniable. So that you know what to look out for in the future, these are the seven worst foods to eat for stress.
1. Ice cream
In disastrous news for anyone who has recently gone through a messy breakup, it turns out that the answer to emotional turmoil is not at the bottom of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Like all foods that contain high levels of refined sugar, ice cream can increase the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, making the whole situation seem much worse than it otherwise would be.
We’ve all tried to spend the small hours of the morning before a big deadline swigging coffee and slowly becoming more and more agitated. As much as this may be due to the impending sense of doom, coffee plays a big part in this being such an anxious time. While there is evidence to suggest that caffeine may be an effective long term cure for depression, in the short term it can blunt the body’s ability to absorb key mood balancing chemicals, leading to elevated stress levels.
A big, hearty bowl of Japanese bone broth might be many people’s idea of the ultimate comfort food, but there’s actually more going on in ramen than meets the eye. The dish’s high salt content can lead to high blood pressure, which can in turn cause hypertension, fatigue and elevated stress levels.
4. Soy Sauce
Not only can the saltiness of the sauce contribute to stress, there are actually several other factors that make soy dangerous for the anxious diner. All soy contains high levels of copper, which is known to increase feelings of anxiety in prone patients. In addition, soy sauce contains high levels of phytic acid, which is known to restrict the body’s ability to absorb stress-balancing nutrients.
5. Diet Soda
We all know the dangers of indulging in too many sugary fizzy drinks, but it turns out that the sugar-free alternatives may actually be worse. The artificial sweetener aspartame, common in many leading diet sodas, is believed by several leading scientists to block production of serotonin - a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood.
Not only are pretzels covered in tiny flakes of salt, but they are also notoriously carb-heavy. Simple, white-flour carbohydrates will cause a spike in blood glucose levels thanks to their high sugar content, which will in turn lead to an energy crash after eating. Because they are so quick to digest, any feelings of satisfaction will be extremely short lived.
7. Granola/Energy Bars
They might look like healthy alternatives to chocolate, but the sad fact is that granola bars are often little better than the sweets that they are supposed to replace. Some of the worst offenders are those bars described as containing “guarana” - a mysterious ingredient that is basically just another way of saying caffeine.
If you’re feeling stressed, the last thing that you want to worry about is whether your favourite food might be about to make you feel significantly worse. Unfortunately, much as we might like to pretend we can eat whatever we fancy, some things aren’t as comforting as we’d like to think.