"While the two may seem separate, what we eat absolutely affects our stress levels and vice versa," says Brooke Scheller, MS, CNS, DCN-C, Director of Nutrition at Freshly. "When we eat a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed food, this triggers imbalances in blood sugar causing us to crave more of these foods. On the flip side, our stress hormone, cortisol, is directly linked to our blood sugar levels. When we're in a constant state of stress, cravings for high-sugar and high-carb foods are common due to this biochemical process. Essentially, when we're in a state of stress, our body needs carbohydrates for fuel."
So, basically, those comfort foods you're relying on to relieve stress, might actually be causing even more stress thanks to changing blood sugar levels. "Blood sugar levels spike and drop shortly after consuming foods higher in added sugars (this takes about one two hours depending on the food) which can cause increases in stress hormone response!" adds Yasi Ansari, MS, RD, CSSD, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Spikes and drops in blood sugars can cause fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and hunger shortly after eating."