How are you feeling today? Are you feeling stressed? maybe overwhelmed? Or maybe you just feel tired? It is not fun to feel low on energy and be in a bad mood.
The reasons why you may feel low on energy may be many. There are most likely competing priorities, you have multiple deadlines to meet, you are low on patience, and there is not enough time in the day.
This all may ring true to you, but do you know that food can add stress to your body too? Although it is hard to pinpoint specific foods or specific meals to add stress to the body, they are always part of a certain dietary factor that contributes to increased stress levels. It can also negatively impact your overall health and well-being.
So, today I want to give you five foods, or dietary factors, that you need to be aware of if you are serious about not only increasing your energy levels but also improving your health.
But before we start, get your copy of my e-book The Wholehearted Diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.
How Foods Add Stress to Your Body
I know that food is such a hot topic. And saying that there are foods that add stress to your body may sound odd. But I want you to change your perspective on certain products that you eat. So, before I jump into different dietary factors that may not be beneficial to your health, I want to state something.
And this is mostly for the critics out there.
As in anything in life, it all comes down to balance. Certain products consumed in moderation can be less harmful than anticipated. And yes, you can overdo the good stuff today.
However, as more research is done, there is more scientific evidence that certain dietary factors are linked to many autoimmune illnesses. They cause inflammation which impacts your mood, energy levels, cell growth, muscle and bone health, hormone production, and nutrient absorption, to name a few.
You may feel you are doomed when you look at the list, but eliminating or at least reducing certain dietary factors can improve your health immensely. So, approach it from a learning and curiosity standpoint.
#1 Highly Processed Foods
I know that you have heard about processed foods. Who hasn’t, right? Highly processed foods are not only fast food or sugary snacks. There are a lot of processed products that may seem healthy.
If you follow a plant-based diet, the most common processed foods are meat-free products. Some of them are healthier than others, but many are processed.
In my e-book The Wholehearted Diet I talk about eating whole foods. But I also acknowledge that
most processed foods are produced for our convenience. Let’s face it. Who has the time to cook lavishing meals every day?
The problem with highly processed foods is that they tend to be low in nutrients. They may taste well, but they don’t give us what our body requires for optimal function. And if all your meals are composed of highly processed foods, you may quickly become nutrient deficient.
Another reason highly processed foods are not a good option is that they are often high in unhealthy fats, added refined sugars, sweeteners, sodium, artificial colours, preservatives, or other chemicals.
I read once that if you feel like you need a Ph.D. in chemistry to understand the list of ingredients you shouldn’t be eating it. I also live by the rule of five. I tend to not buy products that have more than five ingredients.
Why consuming highly processed foods is so bad?
Excess consumption can lead to inflammation, imbalance in your blood sugar levels, and hormone production. And as mentioned before most of the products don’t contain any nutrients, so you may become nutritionally deficient.
And this brings a whole lot of health issues.
This one may be hard to swallow, but the amount of sugar we consume is astronomical. Sugar is literally in everything. It means it is in natural form in fruit and vegetables and in added form in well, almost any product.
The type of sugar your body requires is glucose. And it is not in big quantities either. However, we face an epidemic of refined sugar which is added to sweets, sugary beverages, processed foods, juices, baked goods, and so on.
Sugar is one of those dietary factors that needs to be eaten in moderation. Our bodies were not designed to digest enormous amounts of sugar. Your body simply doesn’t know what to do with it, so it dumps into fat cells.
On a greater scale, excessive consumption of sugar can lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and many other health imbalances. High sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance. It can also lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes.
If you often feel tired, irritated, or lacking energy investigating the amount of sugar you eat could be your first step to resolving the issue.
I have read once that we are all intolerant to gluten. But some of us can tolerate it more than others. It all depends on our immune system.
If you have gluten sensitivity, or you are a celiac, you know why eating gluten is not a good idea. For the rest of us, gluten or gluten-containing products such as wheat, ray, oats, or barley may not have an immediate impact on our health.
The opinion on gluten in the medical environment is divided. However, what is known is that gluten affects the small intestine. The small intestine is a part of your digestive system responsible for absorbing nutrients.
Gluten causes damage to the lining of your small intestine. This can lead to not only your body being unable to absorb the nutrients it needs, but also certain particles getting out of the intestine and inflaming the rest of the body.
Various digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, as well as irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut, can be a result of gluten consumption.
Although I am not celiac, I put gluten on the same shelf as sugar. I only eat it in moderation, or less than moderation. It is only an occasional addition to my diet.
I would strongly encourage you to eliminate or drastically remove consumption of gluten and see how you feel. You may find that you are less bloated, less moody, and have more energy.
I know I will get a lot of pushback, but I also know this one is not a surprise for you. We live in an alcohol-orientated culture, and I don’t even remember a social situation when alcohol hasn’t been served.
Alcohol has relaxing properties, and initially, it can provide a sense of calm. In the long term alcohol consumption is harmful. It not only can disrupt sleep patterns, impair cognitive function, and negatively impact mood. But it contributes to increased stress on your body.
Alcohol in its digested form cannot be processed by your body. It has to be converted into a product called acetaldehyde for your liver to be able to process it. Only then it can be removed from your organism.
Your liver is often overloaded by other stressors, so chronic alcohol consumption adds an extra load. This not only impacts the health of your liver, but it impacts all other systems.
Your body will always prioritize to eliminate products that are harmful to you. It means that while your liver is trying to remove acetaldehyde, it doesn’t perform normal day-to-day functions.
Think about it like taking the garbage out. When you run out of bin bags or don’t have the time to attend to them, the rubbish piles up. So, whatever your liver is unable to process and move to elimination, it circles back.
Giving up alcohol is an individual choice, but even reducing the consumption can lift some of the pressure off your liver.
#5 Trans Fats
Let’s state for the record that there are different types of fats. Because as you guessed, not all fats are harmful. Trans fats, commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed foods are the fats that should be avoided.
The main reason for removing trans fats from your diet is that they have been associated with increased inflammation and negative effects on cardiovascular health.
Think about high cholesterol, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and, of course, fat cells. Trans fats also increase inflammation, and this can cause stress on your body.
Now, not all fats are bad. What’s more, your body needs healthy fats for optimal functioning. So think about avocados, seeds, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil as your go-to staples for your body’s fat needs.
How To Avoid Foods That Add Stress to Your Body
I am a big believer in a healthy, balanced diet. When you focus on the consumption of products full of nutrients, avoiding foods that have the potential to harm you is easier.
You and your body are unique and may respond differently to specific foods. You may have some sensitivities or allergies that cause certain reactions in your body. It is important to pay attention to your body’s reactions.
A balanced, wholehearted diet full of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats is a winner every time.
Ready to get started with a plant-based diet? Get your copy of my e-book The Wholehearted Diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.