Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Five Foods That May Contribute to Stress at Work

While you can't always control what your workday throws at you, you can control what you eat during your workday. When it comes to your daily diet, you have full power. Thus, making wiser, healthier choices about what goes into your body during your crazy workdays can help you stay focused, awake and more productive. Remember, you are what you eat!

According to a survey by Atena, "23 percent of Americans report lashing out at others due to stress." In turn, stress, if not treated, can lead to depression, isolation, anxiety and other health issues. While you can do a lot of different things to de-stress, simple daily changes like what you eat while you are at work can make a huge difference on your stress levels. Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian/ nutritionist, media personality, and author of The Small Change Diet, developed a few tips on how certain foods and beverages can contribute to your stress at work.

According to Keri Gans, be cautious when consuming these foods.

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.

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. Small changes, such as ordering a simple grilled chicken sandwich with avocado and lots of veggies on whole wheat bread instead of a huge sub weighed down by cheese, meat and high sodium condiments, may help keep blood pressure down. 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. 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 low-fat plain yogurt with berries, 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.

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 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.

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