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Can Food Cause Stress?

Many of us turn to our favourite comfort foods when we’re feeling stressed, but there are some foods that could be doing more harm than good. When we aren’t feeling well, we tend to reach for more unhealthy foods and this is known as stress eating. This phenomena has actually been backed up by research and the irony is that when we do so we are negatively impacting our concentration and anxiety even further. 


Why is stress bad for us?

We all experience feelings of stress once in a while, but did you know that there are different types of stress and that each of them have different health risks? Stressors can happen at a one-time or short-term occurrence, or they can happen repeatedly over a long period of time. Different people might deal with stress more effectively and be able to recover from stressful events quicker than others.

Some examples of stress can include:


  • Routine stress from work, school, family or any other daily responsibilities. 

  • Stress caused by a sudden negative change, like losing a job, getting a divorce or falling ill.

  • Traumatic stress as a result of experiencing a major accident, assault or natural disaster where people are at risk of getting injured or killed. Those who go through traumatic stress can have very distressing temporary emotional and physical symptoms.


Being under stress for long periods of time can cause negative health issues. Dealing with the symptoms of chronic stress can be a challenge because the body is never in the clear to go back to normal functioning. 


Reactions to chronic stress can disturb your immune, digestive, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. Some people might experience issues with their digestion, while others might have to deal with headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or be irritable. 


Over a period of time, this continued stress can contribute to serious health issues, like heart disease or diabetes. It can even trigger mental disorders like depression or anxiety. 


Foods that can have a negative impact on our stress levels: 

Certain foods can actually contribute to increasing your stress while others can help decrease your stress. Many of us turn to food to help comfort us or feel better in times of need, but some foods can actually cause more stress when we consume them. 


Not only do certain foods increase our anxiety and stress, but when we don’t provide our bodies with the proper nutrients it can put even more strain on our body, increasing levels of inflammation and producing more stress hormones. 


If you’re struggling with managing your stress levels, then try and avoid some of the food listed below so you can make better decisions and do some healthy snacking. 


White Flour

White flour is typically processed and stripped of its fiber and bran which gets digested quickly and absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking your blood sugar levels. This releases the stress hormone known as cortisol into your system, causing stress.


Unfortunately, it’s easy to consume foods that contain white flour. It is in white bread, white rice and other baked goods. Pay attention to nutrition labels and try to choose products made from unrefined carbs which won’t cause a rise in blood sugar levels. 



Excess salt in your food can cause more stress on your heart and how you’re feeling overall. Too much sodium in the body can cause fluid retention, high blood pressure and hypertension. Aim to keep your salt intake less than 2300 mg, you can do this by using less salt in your cooking, and opting for lower-sodium versions when buying food at the grocery store.



Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, but did you know that cortisol is not only produced when you are stressed, it also appears in the body when you sip a soda, eat dessert or consume any other foods that are packed with sugar?


Eating sugary foods each and every day can give you unstable blood sugar levels. This puts unnecessary stress on the body, which causes higher levels of cortisol that is used to deal with your body’s stress. The cortisol and the unbalanced sugar levels will leave you feeling stressed out and anxious. 


The best way to avoid eating too much sugar is to understand where it is in the foods you eat. You can find high levels of sugar in surprising foods, like salad dressing, sauces and yogurts. 



Yet another food that can raise cortisol levels is caffeine. Caffeine can be found in coffee, some teas and even chocolate. Consuming high levels of caffeine can also cause rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure related to feelings of anxiety. It also prevents you from getting a good night’s rest and this can lead to stress caused by fatigue. 


To limit the negative effects of caffeine, you must limit your caffeine intake to only one or two cups per day, especially drinks that contain a lot of sugar as well. If you find you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, you can avoid it and replace it instead with non caffeinated beverages like herbal teas. 


We all have unique bodies that require different kinds of nutrients, and our dietary DNA test can help give you a clear breakdown of your genes and what kinds of foods are the best fuel for your body. 

To learn more about how your DNA can uncover your ideal diet, get started by reading our blog post Can a DNA Test Really Tell You How to Eat? Let us help you navigate your health so you can get on the right path to leading a better life through nutrigenomics.


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