In a national survey administered by the Harvard School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and NPR found that more than one-third of participants change their diets during times of stress. More often than not, those changes are not good.
Stress causes many to turn to comfort foods, such as sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, which actually led to discomfort and more stress in the form of a tighter waistband.
In a separate study by researchers at Harvard University published in the journal Pediatrics, breakfasts high in protein, high in fiber, and high on the glycemic index were pitted against one another to see which type caused participants to become hungry again quickly. Researchers found that foods high on the glycemic index cause a spike in blood sugar and a hunger-inducing crash, plus a surge in the stress hormone adrenaline.
Although a cookie or plate of pasta may seem like a quick fix to a stressful situation, the connection between what you eat and your mood should make you reach for foods that can make your body more resilient to its stress responses. Joe Hibbeln, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, points at sources of omega-3 fatty acids and nutrient-rich foods as best to beat stress.
"One of the most basic ways that omega-3s help to regulate mood is by quieting down the [body's] response to inflammation," Hibbeln told NPR.
Fish (even canned), Swiss chard, eggs, chia seeds, leafy greens, and dark chocolate are all chock-full of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins that can help strengthen immune response, boost your mood, and, most important, satisfy hunger.
Next time you feel like you're going to crack from the pressure, crack a few eggs and whip up a stress-busting breakfast.