5 Foods That May Contribute to Stress at Work

Always on the edge and stressed out when at work? What you are eating could be the reason.
Always on the edge and stressed out when at work? What you are eating could be the reason.

By Guest Author Keri Gans

Everyone feels stress and panic when at work. But if you are feeling the panic rising more often that you should, then its time to know what’s causing it. Is it what you are eating?

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.
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.

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.

An excess of sodium causes the body to retain fluids, which may cause hypertension.
An excess of sodium causes the body to retain fluids, which may cause hypertension.

Sodium-Rich Foods

Though 24% of the respondents in the “What’s Your Healthy?” study report wanting to avoid unhealthy foods with more regularity, sodium rich fries, chips, and deli meats are still lunchtime favorites.

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.

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.
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.

Junk Foods

While it’s fine to indulge your cravings every now and then, if you find yourself making frequent trips to the office vending machine, you may want to re-consider that afternoon bag of candy.

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 low-fat plain yogurt with berries, raw veggies and hummus, or an apple with natural peanut butter.

Research will support that eating a fatty meal may heighten the unhealthy effects of stress on the heart, like raising blood pressure.
Research will support that eating a fatty meal may heighten the unhealthy effects of stress on the heart, like raising blood pressure.

Fatty Foods

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.

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.

Hangovers may kill your chance at productivity and subsequently increase your stress. Hangovers may kill your chance at productivity and subsequently increase your stress.
Hangovers may kill your chance at productivity and subsequently increase your stress.

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.

Partaking in a glass of wine or beer at a business lunch also may not benefit you. Though 37% of the respondents in the “What’s Your Healthy?” study report drinking less alcohol than they did five years ago, many of us still imbibe regularly, and sometimes, while in the presence of colleagues.

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.

 

Keri Gans HeadshotKeri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans’s expert nutrition advice has been featured in GlamourFitnessHealthSelf, and SHAPE, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz ShowGood Morning AmericaABC NewsPrimetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.

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