Rampant stress can wreak havoc in our bodies. In surplus, stress has been known to facilitate internal changes that can sometimes lead to illness. But a recent, small, exploratory study suggests stress can also impact healthy eating.

Published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, the study prompted 58 women to evaluate their stress from the past 24 hours as well as any recent symptoms of depression they may have experienced. The participants then ate a meal high or low in saturated fat.

Through blood testing, the researchers were able to track common markers for inflammation in response to the food. Those who reported low levels of stress tended to have inflammatory responses to the food high in saturated fat only, which was expected. However, those who reported high levels of stress tended to have inflammation after both meals, even the healthier option. The findings caught researchers by surprise and they hope this study will lead to more exploratory research into how stress might play a role in metabolism.

Daily Stress Check
Managing stress each day is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Just as each of us is wildly unique, our approaches to stress relief are also very personalized – find what methods work best for you. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Prioritize relaxation. Relaxing activities are not restricted to resting on the couch; hobbies most certainly fall in this category.
  • Get quality rest. Sleeping seven to nine hours each night can help support your body as it manages influxes of stress throughout the day.
  • Explore routine stress-reduction practices. Meditation and mindfulness are lifelong tools that can help you relax, even in the middle of stressful situations.
  • Find time for regular physical activity. Get moving for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Focus on the many relationships in your life. Create memories with loved ones.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. You might even add foods with vitamin C (oranges), magnesium (spinach), whole grains and more to your healthy diet to help buffer the impact of stress on your body.

“Stress May Counteract Effects of a Healthful Diet,” Nicholas Bakalar, nytimes.com, Sept. 22, 2016.