Food As A Stress Pacifier?

For ten years I taught a course titled, Nutrition, Health and Performance at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I had studied nutrition in graduate school, but boy, did I really learn about this topic when I actually taught it. As a result, even though I thought I was eating rather well, this new focus caused me to take a new look at my eating habits. Regarding stress and nutrition, here are some interesting facts to ponder:
• During periods of chronic stress, we tend to deplete vital nutrients necessary for optimal living, primarily the water soluble vitamins (C and B-Complex) as well as many minerals, all of which are used for energy metabolism (fight or flight).
• During periods of chronic stress, people tend to eat “comfort foods” (junk foods, fast foods, and processed foods which are high in processed sugar, fats (and trans fats), salt. While these may taste good, they are called “empty calories” because they don’t replace the essential nutrients lost in the course of chronic stress. The opposite of empty calories is nutrient dense food. Think a Twinkie vs. an apple.
• During periods of chronic stress people tend to consume foods that actually trigger the stress response (trigger the release of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine). These include processed sugar, processed flour, and caffeine. Once should note that salt, also found in these kinds of foods, tends to increase water retention, leading to elevated blood pressure levels. If you are prone for hypertension, this is NOT good.
• A fourth factor to consider is that while the food supply in America is plentiful, it is also laden with toxic chemicals that should never be allowed in food (As we have learned with the last administration, the FDA is in the pockets of corporate America who is into making profits, not creating health). Herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fertilizers (many of which are petroleum-based have synthetic estrogens associated with breast cancer) are not only on the foods; they are IN The foods we eat, with the exception of organics. When you add to this mix antibiotics and hormones in non-organic meats, the immune system becomes overwhelmed (suppressed) and this leads to a whole host of health-related problems.
Given the alarming rise of chronic diseases and their association with stress, paying more attention to our eating habits is essential, particularly in times of stress (personal or otherwise). Moderation is the key! Changing eating behaviors is challenging at best, but not impossible. What I often told my students was this” “Eat one meal a day for your immune system.”

• Stress Tip for the Day: It has been reported by a few nutrition experts that sugar tends to suppress the immune system. Our food supply is loaded with processed sugar including high fructose corn syrup (sugar in fresh fruits is fine). Consider dramatically decreasing your consumption of foods containing processed sugar for the next week. In essence, become more conscious of what you are eating, and particularly where it comes from.

• Website Link Worth Noting:
This website link is called Wisdom Book, a collection of short interviews with the likes of several world luminaries (e.g. Robert Redford, Jane Goodall). It is very inspiring.

Photo of the Day:
This bowl of organic fresh strawberries was as delicious as it looks. Remember its always best to shop organic when possible.

• Quote for the Day:

“Sixty percent of all cancers could be eliminated if people ate a better diet.”
—The American Cancer Society

Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and stress and human spirituality. He is the author of over 10 books including the bestsellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward, The Art of Calm, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart and Managing Stress (6E). He can be reached through his

Brian Luke Seaward

Author Brian Luke Seaward

More posts by Brian Luke Seaward

Leave a Reply