What Food Do You Eat When Stressed?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 06/13/2024

Dealing with stress is difficult for everyone, and many people turn to food as a source of relief.

Learn about stress eating, how it affects blood sugar, and the best way to support your health during stressful times.

The Vicious Cycle of Stress Eating and Blood Sugar Fluctuations

Stress eating seems like a quick fix for calming nerves, but it can actually be harmful. When you reach for carbs during stressful times, your blood sugar spikes and then crashes about 30 to 40 minutes later.

This crash boosts cortisol—the stress hormone—making you feel even more stressed.

This cortisol surge doesn't just tweak your mood; it kicks off cravings that are tough to resist. Your body screams for another carb hit to lift blood sugar levels again, trapping you in this stress-eat-cortisol-repeat loop.

Instead, focus on balanced meals with protein and fiber that keep blood sugars steady.

The Role of Dopamine in Stress Eating

Dopamine often gets the spotlight as a 'feel-good' hormone, igniting our anticipation for rewards. Interestingly, its levels spike not while you indulge, but when you are looking forward to that first bite.

Turning to carbs during stressful times seems logical since they give us a temporary dopamine boost.

But munching on those comfort foods doesn't do much to reduce cortisol—the stress hormone—leaving you still stressed after eating.

Nutritional Strategies for Stress Management

When the chips are down and you feel stressed, reaching for more chips isn't the answer. Instead of stress eating your way to a spike in blood sugar—and an inevitable crash—consider turning to healthier alternatives.

Vitamin B1 as a Calming Agent

Sometimes called the "anti-stress" vitamin, vitamin B1 (thiamine) can be a real game-changer. It helps soothe nerves by promoting relaxation.

You don't need to pop pills; get your dose through natural sources like nutritional yeast.

Keeping thiamine levels topped up will make you feel calmer while avoiding blood sugar crashes.

Magnesium's Role in Relaxation

Magnesium is another secret weapon against stress.

Both magnesium citrate and calcium magnesium supplements you choose, they both help take the edge off after those long days when everything seems too much.

A warm bath with Epsom salts before bed also gets some magnesium into your system while prepping you for better sleep.

Herbal Remedies for Easing Stress

If you've ever felt chronic stress, you know stress can cause you a lot of sleepless nights. Learning how to support healthy sleep patterns can be significant for those suffering stress.

Lemon Balm Tea for Better Sleep

Sipping lemon balm tea can help your brain relax before bed. Studies show that lemon balm promotes calmness and should be part of your pre-bedtime ritual if you have trouble sleeping.

L-Theanine for Mental Clarity

L-theanine is an amino acid that reduces mental fog. Found naturally in green tea leaves, this compound helps ease mental stress without making you drowsy but can help you sleep better.

Adaptogens as Natural Stress Relievers

Adaptogens are nature's answer to helping your body resist stress.

Ashwagandha isn't just another supplement trend; its roots run deep in Ayurvedic medicine. This herb helps the adrenal system stay calm and regulate cortisol properly.

Studies show ashwagandha increases your body's tolerance to stressful situations. Adaptogens are also crucial to hormone regulation.

Practical Tips for Avoiding Stress Eating

When stress hits, it's easy to find comfort in a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate. But what if you could tackle your tension without derailing your diet?

Identifying Triggers and Creating New Habits

The first step is recognizing what triggers the eating of junk food. Is it boredom? Anxiety?

Once the cause is pinpointed,learn to substitute eating junk with healthier habits like walking briskly or squeezing a stress ball.

This isn't just about willpower; it's about rewiring your brain to seek relief elsewhere.

pizza and cheeseburgers

Stress without Stress Eating, Plus a Keto Cheeseburger Casserole 

Managing stress without resorting to stress eating becomes essential for overall well-being in the hustle of daily life. Embracing healthier alternatives helps maintain balance, and amidst these choices, the Keto Cheeseburger Casserole emerges as a delightful option.

This flavorful dish caters to your taste buds and aligns with ketogenic principles, making it a satisfying and mindful choice for those seeking stress relief without compromising their dietary goals.


Stress often leads to eating for comfort, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes, which increase cortisol levels and intensify cravings. To break this cycle, focus on balanced meals with protein and fiber to maintain steady blood sugar.

Dopamine, the brain's reward chemical, spikes when anticipating food, making stress eating temporarily gratifying but ultimately ineffective in reducing cortisol. Instead, use nutritional strategies like vitamin B1 (thiamine) and magnesium to promote relaxation.

Herbal remedies such as lemon balm tea and L-theanine improve sleep and mental clarity, while adaptogens like ashwagandha help regulate stress responses. Recognize stress-eating triggers and develop healthier habits to prevent it.

By adopting these strategies, you can manage stress more effectively and maintain overall well-being.

Supporting Data


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