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Gut Health

Does comfort food really make you feel better?

It happens to all of us — stress, anger, sadness, boredom and anxiety can have you whipping up mac and cheese or sitting hand in hand with the cookie jar real quick. Foods used to counteract negative moods are usually sweet, fatty, carbohydrate-rich, and indulgent, because such choices provide immediate satisfaction, and can even have psycho-physical benefits. 

Additionally, while indulging in comfort foods, especially the sugary kind like your favourite ice-cream can trigger the release of dopamine (the brain’s pleasure hormone), this mood boost does not last according to Rachel Kelly, author of The Happiness Diet: Good Mood Food. “The immediate high we feel when eating sugary things might help to relieve anxiety temporarily, but we soon experience a crash as our blood-sugar levels drop suddenly,” Kelly says. 

However, we know that when you’re feeling blue, snacks may be the only thing to break the pity party, so instead of diving head first into a block of chocolate or bowl of pasta, you can make these swaps so it doesn’t take such a toll on your mood (and your health). 

  • Zucchini, kale, parsnip or sweet potato chips instead of regular chips
  • Cauliflower rice instead of white rice 
  • Zoodles instead of pasta 
  • Dark chocolate instead of milk/white chocolate 
  • Unsweetened natural yoghurt with fruit instead of dessert type foods

Additionally, some healthy foods actually provide real “comfort” by decreasing stress and anxiety. According to an article by Jessica Shelton entitled “8 Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress,” these feel-good foods include avocado, almonds, turkey (think: post-Thanksgiving dinner food coma), blueberries, asparagus, yogurt, kale, and salmon.

Shelton, who cites a number of research studies in her article, agrees that food swaps may increase emotional well-being. These include substituting friend chicken for lean turkey, having blueberries instead of sugary sweets, and pairing yogurt with your cereal instead of milk. 

Love your guts! xx


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