10/24/2013 07:08 am ET Updated Oct 25, 2013

5 Everyday Foods That Will Stress You Out


Your boss isn't the only bad guy when it comes to your stress level. Nutritionists say what we're eating is only stressing our bodies out further -- the irony is, we're often eating to relieve stress!

In the digital age, we've mostly accepted stress as a part of life rather than acknowledging it as an occasional inconvenience. It's constant and it's putting us on edge, whether we realize it or not.

A recent survey by health insurer Aetna revealed that just under a quarter of people surveyed had lashed out at others as a result of stress. Commonly reported major stressors included driving, work, extended family, and romantic relationships.

Stress isn't just wreaking havoc on our everyday mental well-being. It also can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and lowered productivity.

"What we choose to fuel our bodies with daily is so important for every aspect of our lives. I always tell my patients, the one thing you have control over, regardless of what is happening around you, is what you eat. Choose smartly!" nutritionist and dietician Keri Gans told The Huffington Post.

Here are five foods that she says are stressing you out:

Step away from the coffee
While guzzling a piping hot cup of joe might seem like a good idea first thing in the morning, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Large amounts of caffeine, whether you're drinking coffee or energy drinks, can actually cause anxiety and loss of concentration. Plus, if you're caffeine sensitive, the resulting jitters will reduce your productivity, creating stress. Stick to 16 ounces or less, if you must.

Also, consider trying black tea, which is loaded with antioxidants and contains less sugar than soft drinks, so you're less likely to crash after an initial surge of energy.

Lay off the salt
Peek at many people's lunches as you'll find things like deli meats, cheeses, and heavy condiments in sandwiches. A sandwich may seem healthy, but these ingredients are loaded with sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure. Stress already leads to hypertension, so do yourself a favor, and don't make matters worse.

Avoid the vending machine
A mid-afternoon sweet treat may seem like it will get you through the last few hours of the workday, but the boost you get will be only temporary. Most junk foods like candy and cookies are full of simple carbohydrates that cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash that makes you feel sluggish and tired.

Opt for snacks that provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help regulate stress. Try combinations like carrots and hummus or peanut butter and apples.

Kick the fried foods habit
Fatty foods contribute to hypertension just as much as stress alone, studies have shown. Fatty meals worsen the effects of stress on the heart and Gans says people often forget that fried foods aren't the only foods that are high in fat. Less obvious fatty foods include many rich dairy products, like cheese and ice cream.

Cut back on the booze
Too much alcohol isn't just bad for your liver and your looks -- the hangover can quash your productivity at work, meaning you'll have extra work to catch up on after you're done drinking your Sprite.

"Alcohol is more likely associated with being "calming" after a long, stressful day, but too much of it can have the total opposite effect," Gans said. Alcohol increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which can lead to stress and weight gain too. Stick to a club soda or a mocktail.



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