We’ve all heard by now about the profound benefits of a healthy diet and the profound negative consequences of a high-stress lifestyle. But which is more important in terms of your overall health and wellness? According to recent research, stress is the first issue to address. Here’s why.

A study tracked nearly 60 women who ate a meal high in saturated fats (fatty meats, high-fat dairy, etc.) and then two weeks later, ate a meal low in saturated fats. Meals were similar in other nutritional aspects, such as calories, carbohydrates and protein. Before each meal, the women completed a questionnaire that gathered data on depressive symptoms and daily stressors in the previous 24 hours. Researchers also took blood samples to assess inflammation (a marker of stress) before and after each of the two meals.

Women who reported low levels of stress before eating the high-saturated-fat meal experienced higher levels of inflammatory markers after eating the saturated fat meal compared to eating the unsaturated fat meal. However, for women with high levels of pre-meal stress, even eating the “healthier” (low-saturated-fat) meal did little to reduce their initial inflammatory markers.

To learn more about how stress can impact your health (and what you can do about it), click here.