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Health & Wellness

Is Stress Causing You to Gain Weight?

By on 04/26/2019

If you’re like many people, you crave high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie foods when you’re stressed. What’s worse, the excess calories you get from these foods are more likely to be stored in your belly than elsewhere in the body.

You may think you’re reaching for convenience foods when you’re stressed because you’re short on time – and patience. But often, the culprit is the stress hormone cortisol at work. Cortisol is a “fight or flight” hormone designed to energize your mind and body when danger strikes. The problem is that when this hormone kicks in, it prompts your body to eat. And when you reach for foods in response to stress, you’re more likely to reach for junk foods filled with sugar and/or fat.

If you live with chronic stress, your cortisol levels remain high for long periods of time. The result? You may notice your weight creeping up.

Fortunately, a nutritious diet filled with a few stress-busting foods may help reduce levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure. This can help you better respond to stress and makes it easier to keep your weight in check.

Add these stress-busting foods to your diet:

  • Nuts and seeds. Packed with B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E and potassium, nuts and seeds help lower stress and blood pressure.
  • Greens. Broccoli, kale, spinach and other dark green vegetables contain high amounts of magnesium, a stress-busting mineral.
  • Healthy fats. Cold water fish like salmon and sardines are rich in anti-stress omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados are full of potassium, another blood pressure-lowering mineral.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods. This vitamin shores up your immune system and combats cortisol. Good sources include oranges, grapefruits, berries, melons, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

You already know that healthy eating helps lower your risk for some chronic diseases. Why not let a healthier diet also help lower your stress level, too? In addition to diet, talk to your doctor about other lifestyle changes that may help reduce stress, like exercise or meditation.

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Date Last Reviewed: February 19, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.