A lot of us turn to sugar to relieve stress because it unleashes a flood of serotonin, the happy, calming hormone. But new research shows that sugar can actually make us more anxious and tense than before. 

That’s the message from Dr. Robert Lustig who wrote the book Fat Chance: Beating The Odds Against Sugar, Processed Foods, Obesity and Disease." He says the problem with sweets is that they release sugar into the body too quickly. That increases the amount of insulin we’re pumping out, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes. And studies show that the more uneven our blood sugar is, the more uneven our moods are and the less we’re able to deal with stress.

In fact, Dr. Lustig says uneven blood sugar is often the single biggest factor in mood swings. The problem is we’re a more stressed-out society these days. And the stress hormone cortisol increases our desire for comfort foods. So we eat things like candy, cookies and chips, which all turn into straight sugar in our system and that affects our brain chemistry, making us feel better temporarily. The problem is the more you use sugar to boost that happy hormone, the more sugar you need to get the same effect which turns it into a vicious cycle.

So what should we reach for the next time we get stressed? Load up on foods that’ll help you stay calm and focused:

  • Like berries. They’re packed with vitamin C, which helps our body deal with stress. They’re also full of fiber, which helps keep our blood sugar stable. 

  • Another stress-fighting food? Nuts. They’re full of B vitamins to help lower stress.  

  • Finally – eat more dark green vegetables, which help replenish the nutrients your body needs to manage stress.