Starch: Whole grains, rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans.
Starch or complex carbohydrate is our prime source of energy. Unrefined carbohydrates are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Sugar: Fruits, milk
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, and is also an energy source. Refined sugar is a source of calories but no nutrition. Stress tends to cause a craving for sugar, which unfortunately can in turn further increase stress. The reason for this is that sugar consumption can upset the balance of our blood sugar - when it rises we may experience a surge of energy but it then drops and we may feel weak, anxious or irritable, and crave something sweet to eat again.
The liver should regulate the amount of sugar going into the bloodstream but if it is not working efficiently it will fail to do so, and there will be peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels. Alcohol can upset the liver and cause it to function sluggishly; a high protein diet, the use of drugs, and pollutants in food all further limit its efficiency.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) imposes stress on the body because if the blood sugar drops too low the nervous system does not work properly. Low blood sugar is interpreted by the body as a danger signal and the adrenal glands respond to this by secreting adrenaline, putting into action the "fight or flight" mechanism.
This has the effect of mobilizing glucose stores from the liver to raise the blood, it also causes fear, palpitations, shakiness, clammy hands, and breathlessness - which are often interpreted as misplaced anxiety.
These mood swings, indicating changes in blood sugar levels, seem to aggravate any existing stress and decrease our ability to cope with it.
They make extra demands on the adrenal glands, increase the amount of adrenaline in the system and serve to deplete our vital energy. They could also contribute to stress-related illness.
When trying to understand why some are more prone to hypoglycemia than others, the role of the pancreas must also be considered. The pancreas secretes insulin which causes sugar in the blood to enter the body's cells, and also glucagon which helps to regulate the release of stored sugar from the liver into the bloodstream.
Stress may be a major factor in the regulation of both insulin and glucagon secretion from the pancreas, and resultant imbalances of blood sugar.
However, regular consumption of refined suff may also cause the pancreas to function erratic causing poor sugar control, which becomes even worse under stress. In this way a vicious circle is created, and under even minimal stress we may fly off the handle for no apparent reason, be over sensitive, or overreact to stress.
Fibre: Vegetables, seeds, pulses, beans.
Fibre is essential for healthy bowel function and protects against bowel disease and gallstones, and reduces cholesterol levels.