Study finds eating stress-relieving foods can make stress worse, and what to eat instead

Your deadline is coming up quickly and you’re late, so you find the only thing that can help: a greasy donut.

A new study shows that eating high-fat foods before or during a stressful event will only make your stress worse, reduce the function of your brain and heart, and slow down how quickly your body recovers from stress .

“We invited a group of healthy young adults and gave them two buttered croissants for breakfast,” Rosalind Benham, a researcher at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said in a press release.

“Then we asked them to do mental arithmetic, speeding it up for eight minutes, and alerted them when they answered incorrectly. The experiment was designed to simulate the everyday stressors we might have to deal with at work or at home,” Benham added.

The team found that eating high-fat foods during stress reduced cardiovascular function by 1.7 percent, while other studies have shown that every 1 percent decrease in cardiovascular function is associated with a 13 percent increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. .

“Importantly, we found that this impairment in vascular function lasted longer when our participants ate croissants,” Benham said.

If you’re stressed, don’t eat the butter croissant. Nitr – stock.adobe.com

The scientists were able to detect a decrease in the elasticity of the arteries in the study participants within 90 minutes of the stressful event.

“When we are stressed, different things happen in the body, our heart rate and blood pressure increase, our blood vessels dilate, and blood flow to the brain increases. We also know that blood vessel elasticity, a measure of blood vessel function, increases with mental stress. And going down,” Baynham said.

In addition to its effects on the heart, the research team found that eating high-fat foods affects oxygen flow to the brain.

During periods of stress, fatty foods reduced oxygen flow to the brain’s prefrontal cortex by 39 percent compared to when participants consumed low-fat foods. Additionally, fat consumption impaired participants’ mood both during and after stress episodes.

Donuts are not your friend when you’re stressed. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, also showed that consuming low-fat foods and drinks had less of an impact on people’s recovery from stress.

After eating a low-fat meal, cardiovascular function still decreased by 1.2% under stress, but this decrease returned to normal 90 minutes after the stressful event.

In an earlier study, the same research team found that impairment of cardiovascular function could be completely prevented by eating healthier foods, especially those rich in polyphenols such as cocoa, berries, grapes, apples and other fruits and vegetables. damage.

Other foods that can reduce the effects of stress on the body include complex carbohydrates, such as whole-wheat breads and cereals; salmon, tuna, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids; nuts, such as almonds and pistachios; and crunchy raw foods. Vegetables such as carrots and celery.

A better stress-relieving dietary choice is heart-healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. Getty Images

“We deal with stress all the time, and especially for those who work high-stress jobs and are at risk for cardiovascular disease, these findings should be taken seriously,” said Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten, professor of biological psychology at the University of Birmingham.

“This study looked at healthy people aged 18 to 30 years old, and it was shocking to see such a significant difference in the way their bodies recover from stress when they ate high-fat foods. For cardiovascular disease For people at increased risk, the impact may be more severe,” van Zanten added.

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