Stressful events in our day-to-day lives are inevitable, whether it’s an argument with a coworker, an inconsiderate roommate or an unexpected car repair. Thankfully, healthy stress relievers like yoga, a glass of red wine or a perfect piece of avocado toast help ease the anxiety of a bad day without any additional guilt. Or so you thought. A recent study out of the University of Ohio suggests that when you’re stressed, your body processes an avocado the same way it processes a Big Mac, which is to say: not well.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is the first to show that stress could possibly cancel out potential benefits of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, coconut oil and salmon. Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, says simply, “It’s more evidence that stress matters.” A lot. Stress matter a lot.
Participants included 58 women who averaged 53 years old and had varying medical histories. The women were split into two groups — one group ate a breakfast of biscuits and gravy made with unhealthy saturated fats, while the second ate an identical breakfast cooked with sunflower oil, a healthier option. Overall, the blood tests of those women who ate the saturated fat meal came back with higher markers for inflammation than the blood tests of those in the sunflower oil group, as you might expect.
However, when a sunflower oil group participant dealt with a stressful event the day before their breakfast, their inflammation marker levels were just as high as those in the saturated fat group. And this is after Kiecolt-Glaser and her team controlled for factors like weight, age differences, physical activity, abdominal fat and blood test results before the study began. Basically, stress is so bad for your body that it (somewhat) cancels out your efforts to eat healthy. But don’t reach for the cookies just yet.
Kiecolt-Glaser reminds us that the moral of this study isn’t that you should just eat whatever you want when you’re stressed but that you should be even more mindful of your food choices when you’ve got a lot on your proverbial plate.
Chronic inflammation, which can be caused by stress and diet, is linked to health issues like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, so keeping inflammation levels low is so important to a person’s overall health. Martha Belfry, co-author of the study, says that diets like the Mediterranean diet are so healthy because they are rich in anti-inflammatory foods like olive oil. Now go make yourself some avocado toast.
What are some simple ways you de-stress after a tough day? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us your secrets!
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