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stress inflammation diet
Photo: Stocksy/Alexey Kuzma

What if—no matter how much kale and how many avocados you ate—your mental state was actually undermining all your healthy habits?

According to a new study in Molecular Psychiatry, that could be exactly what’s happening. The study shows that stress can counteract your nutritious, superfood-packed diet—seemingly putting all of those good food choices to waste (and making the case for a unplug-from-the-whirl bath, stat).

The double-blinded, randomized trial had 58 women first eat a meal high in saturated fats (think heavy hitters like meat and butter). Then one to two weeks later, they each ate a nutritionally identical meal—but this one was low in saturated fats, the New York Times reports.

To measure the impact of stress on participants’ metabolism, each woman filled out a questionnaire (which addressed symptoms of depression as well as daily triggers) before each meal, and had her blood tested before and after eating.

“Stress made the healthier-fat meal look like a saturated-fat meal.”

The findings? First off, inflammation was higher after eating the high-fat meal, compared with the low-fat meal—not a shock. But the data did reveal something interesting: For women who had high stress levels, inflammation was high after both meals.

“Stress made the healthier-fat meal look like a saturated-fat meal,” says lead author Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser. “Stress is doing things with the metabolism that we really didn’t know about before.”

So now we know—the everyday evil of stress is doing more than wrecking your skin and inhibiting your ability to function at your highest level. It can sabotage your metabolism as well, despite how healthy you eat. Time to jump-start your meditation practice?

To handle stress, you could also view it in a different way—here are six mindset-resets so you can harness it in a positive way. If you’re more into managing it through meditation, this five-minute sequence will seriously de-stress your mind