Stress can be caused by eating habits. This ranges from eating too much junk food, or eating too much or too fast, to eating the wrong amounts at the wrong time of day. The old adage ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a lord and dinner like a pauper’ is still a valid one. If you tell someone that if they eat a good breakfast they will end up slimmer, they will not believe you, but this meal reduces our craving for carbohydrates later in the morning. Many people feed cravings with chocolates, crisps or high-fat snacks and therefore put on weight.
Recent research has shown that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate breakfast not only is good for controlling weight, but also may reduce stress. In a study of over 100 people, those who ate cereal every day suffered less stress and depression than those who did not eat any breakfast.
Although those who were eating breakfast had a healthier general diet and lifestyle than those who weren’t, this alone could not explain the lower stress levels. It is unclear why this occurs, but it may be caused by the calming effect that carbohydrates can have on our moods.
Although no diet can remove all the stress from your life, there are some dietary principles that may help you feel better:
- Avoid binging and crash dieting at all costs. Overeating, or comfort eating, is a problem in many people who feel stressed.
- Eat as much fresh fruit as you can, substituting this for biscuits or chocolate when you are hungry.
- Increase the amount of B vitamins in your diet by eating wholegrain bread, lean meat and fish. Stress destroys these valuable nutrients.
- Cut out white rice and white flour, and if you are allergic to wheat, buy gluten-free bread.
For many people proteins can be mild stimulants, so small amounts eaten throughout the day can be beneficial. A combination of low-fat, high-protein foods increases alertness and energy levels in a much healthier way than a ‘quick fix’ of a sugar burst followed by an energy dip.