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Stress reducing foods: myth or reality?

Published on December 1, 2017 at 13:19 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 13:59

Did you know that the most stressed people in the country are found in Québec? In fact, according to the results of a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, the proportion of people in “La belle province” who declared that most of their days were "quite stressful" or "extremely stressful" was higher than the national average. Across Canada, nearly 6.7 million people consider themselves stressed by life’s ups and downs. Are there foods that can help reduce stress? Here’s a closer look at the potential associations between certain foods and chronic stress. 

Anti-stress foods?

Consuming carbohydrates—aka sweets or comfort food—has long been associated with temporary relief of symptoms of depression. This is because the levels of serotonin—the hormone of happiness—increase with the amount of carbohydrates consumed. On the other hand, although this link has been demonstrated for several years, some studies point in the opposite direction. These studies claim that it is rather stress and the symptoms of depression that cause us to make poorer nutritional choices. Researchers have shown that people who were under stress reported consuming foods that they would not normally eat, and that the reason they did so was to feel better. 

So, we can say that foods high in sugars temporarily help relieve stress, but at what cost? The consumption of these treats, sugary drinks, treats, desserts could well explain the few extra pounds gained by individuals suffering from chronic stress. 

Is breakfast important?

It’s been said many times, but breakfast is probably one of the most important meals of the day. In a 2106 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who skipped breakfast were less likely to meet nutritional recommendations and were more likely to consume empty calories in the evening. Stress was directly related to food intake of added sugars after supper time, while food intake didn’t appear to be affected at all by stress in individuals who always ate a healthy breakfast. 

There’s therefore no food that has clearly-defined anti-stress properties. However, we know that a lifestyle, including a healthy diet, eating breakfast and participating in regular physical activity, helps reduce stress. However, certain foods can help promote sleep, which could be a good strategy to reduce stress. Several scientific studies have looked at the consumption of milk, sour cherries, kiwi fruit, chamomile tea, but none have been found to be robust enough to lead to a clear conclusion. 

In conclusion, the ultimate goal remains to learn how to better manage stress in order to prevent the intake of foods high in sugar and fat that are often eaten during periods of stress. So don't try to eliminate stress through eating, but instead practice yoga or meditation. You’ll get guaranteed results. 

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier

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