The Relationship Between Food and Stress

Food and stress. Saints and sinners. Good and Evil. These are all different sides of the same coin. For most individuals the easiest route to stress relief is quite literally ‘through the tummy'.

Why does it seem that stress so often leads to overeating? The knee-jerk reaction is that many people have been trained to associate food with safety, love and comfort. Of course we return to our safety net when we encounter a stressful situation.

Comfort Food

Fall off your bike and skin your knee? An ice cream cone may be what your remember most about this childhood incident. A stressful situation as an adult will still trigger this instinctive memory. Disappointed at work? A box of doughnuts may be your 'medicine of choice'.

Unfortunately stress induced eating means that those foods of choice are usually going to be things that are bad for the body.

You know the types of food we mean; lots of caffeine, heavy on the sugars and loading up on simple carbs. Ice cream, mashed potatoes, fried foods, chocolate cake and other decadently delicious foods are at the top of most comfort food lists.

When you are under a great deal of stress it is natural to turn to your favorite comfort foods. This coping mechanism provides individuals with some degree of stress relief.

Those delicious foods that we frequently associate with love, happiness and childhood can bring us emotional satisfaction.  These types of food also serve as an insulation that keeps us from the reality of dealing with unpleasant truths or confrontational situations.

Good Food

While many people will combine food and stress through unhealthy eating practices you can learn to use food as a means to combat stress instead of contributing to the overall problem. Good food with high nutritional values can actually be just what the doctor ordered for stress relief.

When you fortify your body with the right food choices you can prevent stress from exacting a severe toll on your physical and mental health.


Complex carbohydrates and starches will enable you to combat those unhealthy stress responses. When you add complex carbs to your diet you are helping your body produce higher levels of serotonin and melatonin. These hormonal compounds make you ‘feel happy, safe and relaxed'.

Consider adding complex starches such as warm cinnamon flavored oatmeal, whole grain breads and whole wheat pastas to your diet. These help boost your serotonin levels and also help stabilize your blood glucose. Both of these factors contribute to the reduction of stress and the increased production of serotonin.

Coffee and Tea

Even caffeine used in moderation can give you a morning boost to help get your day rolling. You do need to time the use of caffeine so that you maximize the benefits without actually creating more stress for your body.

Black and green tea seem to have natural stress reducing property, despite the fact that they contain caffeine.

A Healthy Diet

Making sure that you achieve a healthy nutritional state helps you cope with the signs and symptoms of stress.

Select spinach, veggies, almonds, oranges, lemons, avocadoes and tea when you are shopping for groceries. Add more seafood and fish to your daily diet when stress is a concern.

All of these food choices will provide your body with the nutrition needed to help you deal with the link between food and stress, in a healthy way.


In addition to eating the right foods, you can use daily supplements such as Selenium, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C and Magnesium.

These are supplements that boost your body's supply of the essential vitamins and minerals that can be depleted when you are constantly battling stress.

Food and stress go always along. A balanced, rich diet should give all the vitamins and trace elements you need. That balance is sometimes hard to achieve, while chronic stress can raise our need for certain vitamins.

Long Term Changes

Of course those who have to deal with high levels of stress on a daily basis must also change their lifestyle, habits and usual way of thinking if they are going to truly experience stress relief.

Begin to embrace the power of positive thoughts. Incorporate exercise into your regular, daily schedule.

You should also learn how to meditate and spend 15-30 minutes each day performing focused meditative practices. Meditation will help you clear your mind, release your thoughts and can eliminate stress from your life.

Researchers are now discovering that regular sessions of meditation and exercise have a more profound influence on our lives and health than most people realize.


A combination of healthy eating, meditation and exercise will give you the best chance of conquering stress.

This means you can break the unhealthy cycle of comfort food and stress; and you will also be transforming your life in positive ways.

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