5 Foods That May Contribute to Stress at Work

I’ve been pretty darn stressed at work the past few weeks. It’s a good stress because I really like what I do, but I’ve noticed my heart rate stays high even when I leave the office (which causes me first to step back and acknowledge that my heart is often racing at the office), and that it takes me a bit to be able to focus on anything else, i.e. have meaningful conversations with my loved ones. I’ve been trying to reduce my stress when I’m home by changing my blog writing schedule, taking more walks with Maizey, reading more, and just sitting & doing nothing. And, perhaps most importantly, staying away from my computer and iPhone.

I often get content sent to me that PR reps want me to share on my blog, and I always delete them. But this one caught my eye given how I’ve been feeling lately and I thought I’d share. Even if you don’t work in a traditional sense, we all feel stress, so if you’re going through a particular stressful time in school, at home, or with personal matters, hopefully this will be helpful to you too. 

info from Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian/nutritionist, media personality, author of The Small Change Diet

1. Foods High in Caffeine – Caffeine intake sometimes carries a negative connotation, but as with many things, moderation is key. Small daily doses of caffeine – try and stick to 16oz. or less – is OK. Black coffee and tea, for example, are not only a lot lower in sugar than most soft and sports drinks; they’re also rich in antioxidants which may help reduce the risk of certain diseases and ultimately be beneficial to overall health. The harm in caffeine comes with its over-consumption. In large amounts, because it’s a powerful stimulant, caffeine can cause anxiety and loss of concentration, in turn leading to loss of productivity and heightened stress on the job. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you feel yourself becoming jittery or irritable after multiple caffeinated beverages, it would do best to limit your intake.

IMG 1142

2. Sodium-Rich Foods –  An excess of sodium causes the body to retain fluids, which may cause hypertension. Though research is unclear on whether or not stress alone can result in prolonged high blood pressure, sticking to a diet low in fat and sodium can be best.  Of course, other lifestyle changes including regular exercise, adequate sleep, and meditation can also help keep hypertension and stress at bay. If you’re an office-dweller, break up your 9-to-5 with a quick walk around the block if possible. If not, even simple stretches at your desk can be beneficial.

3. Junk Foods – While packaged sweets and other quick-fix snacks seem to satisfy cravings, their effect is temporary and typically result in feelings of sluggishness and hunger. Not only do they leave you feeling famished, most junk foods are simple carbohydrates void of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, the same dietary essentials which assist the body in regulating stress levels. We also know that frequent consumption of high-calorie, high-fat foods can lead to weight gain that can bring a whole slew of health issues – such as, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. So instead of a visit to the vending machine bring a healthy snack to work with you that could keep your body energized, such as a raw veggies and hummus, or an apple with natural peanut butter.

4. Fatty Foods – Research will support that eating a fatty meal may heighten the unhealthy effects of stress on the heart, like raising blood pressure. When we think of fatty foods, pizza, fried chicken and mashed potatoes most likely come to mind first; but we may also be consuming lots of fat in other types of foods we don’t think of. For example, if you are consuming a large amount of 100% whole fat dairy (such as cheese, yogurt, milk) daily you may also need to be concerned. Instead of pouring full-fat cream in your daily cup of joe or drowning your cereal in full-fat milk, try 1% low-fat or nonfat milk for starters or try alternatives like almond or soy milk. It may take awhile to adapt to the new taste, but starting your day with a heart-healthy beverage is worth the switch.

5. Alcohol – Even if your alcohol intake doesn’t match Don Draper’s on the job, studies show that it’s the light or light-to-moderate drinkers who cause more problems than their heavy drinking counterparts, and the reason is their hangovers. . Hangovers may kill your chance at productivity and subsequently increase your stress. Partaking in a glass of wine or beer at a business lunch also may not benefit you. While your intention may be to take the edge off, you may be surprised to learn that your choice of beverage is actually having the opposite effect. While it may lower our inhibitions, reaction time and sense of judgment, research shows that alcohol also stimulates the release of cortisol, also known as the body’s ‘stress hormone.’ When you’re on the clock, stick to sparkling water or another non-alcoholic alternative.

IMG 7011Does eating junk food with wine negate the negative effects of both? 😉

What other tips do you have for decreasing work stress? I pay special attention to my caffeine intake and switch to decaf tea (I love TJ’s red chai) when I feel my heart racing. I also keep chamomile tea at my desk for extra stressful days. 

And, uh, regarding #5, do people actually drink during work hours?? Not at my job. ha!

P.S. – the winner of the Paleo Dishcrawl giveaway is Sara M! For the rest of you, here’s a $10 off coupon for the first 10 people that use it! Just enter this promo code when buying your ticket: foodiestaysfitfan10 . Hope to see you there!!

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  • Reply
    Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs

    I have a few tried & true methods that work for me when I’m having a stressful day/week:
    — Spend some time outside (on a break, or right after work to decompress)
    — If I’m doing work that’s totally solo, I’ll stick one of my earbuds in and listen to a favorite album while working
    — Talk it out with a co-worker: I find sometimes that commiserating, or just acknowledging what is causing my stress can help a little bit
    — If I know it’s going to be a particularly stressful week, I’ll make a point of getting up early to get a workout in before work – it helps lower my stress before it can begin! 🙂

    Have a great night!

  • Reply
    Melissa C

    TJ’s red chai is one of my favorite teas! Their black mango is also amazing, but it’s not decaf 🙁 My job has also been stressful the last few weeks, to decompress I :
    -take an actual lunch break to break my mind from my work. I will also sit outside for a few minutes (if its not too cold)
    -I relax when I get home from work instead of doing work around our apt that I feel like I “should be doing”
    -watch a tv show or movie with my husband to get my mind off from work
    -eat a piece of dark chocolate 🙂

    Hope you are having a relaxing night 🙂

  • Reply

    I definitely drink too much caffeine and can tell when I start to get all hyped up. It makes me more frantic + stressed!

  • Reply
    Lauren @ sassy molassy

    I definitely feel ya on the work stress. I have been craving junk foods lately, but haven’t fallen for it too much. I have been more snacky lately but being in school and working makes me extra hungry.

  • Reply
    Mary @ Fit and Fed

    I like Michelle’s tips at the top of the comments. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, that is a good one for me to avoid when I’m feeling stressed since it can make me anxious.

  • Reply

    I’ve noticed how such foods affect me as well. Part of the problem is staring at the computer all day and then coming home and finding myself in front of the computer, phone, and/or TV. It’s a problem that I never really had when I lived at home and had things to do. However, as I adjust to work, I need to find other nighttime activities to stay away from technology and help me go to bed.

  • Reply

    hahaha back when life was easier and my job was more of a fun thing and not so serious, my boss would take us to hooter’s at lunch! beers during work hours were normal. i couldn’t even imagine that, now. no thank you. great article! glad you decided to post! p.s. love you teri

  • Reply

    I realize my situation is quite different from most, but I work at an ad agency and can report that we do drink (pretty frequently) at work. It’s a wonderful perk, but looks like I’ll have to watch out if I start feeling stressed! 🙂

  • Reply

    I’m a nurse so, uh, drinking is kind of frowned upon on the job. Most people probably don’t enjoy their commutes but mine takes me from the busy city to the picturesque country with mountain views, so I always use that time alone in the car to decompress. When I finally make it home I’m usually a much calmer, nicer person than I was when I first got in the car.

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