Redefining ‘comfort food’ – what you eat can help improve your mood

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘comfort food’? Your mind may conjure foods that hold a certain personal and sentimental meaning. My mom’s English Trifle dessert was a ‘comfort food.’ It was delicious and always reminded me of summers spent in the U.K. I enjoyed it because it was more to me than food: it evoked a sense of nostalgia.

Because we link certain types of food to emotions, many of us turn into emotional eaters during times of stress. We seek out ‘comfort foods’ that may not always be healthy. Emotional eating is viewed as a major factor in the current obesity crisis facing the U.S. That’s why a new definition of ‘comfort food’ is needed – we need to eat foods that take into account both our physical and emotional health.

We all know that millions of Americans suffer from major depression. Even more contend with an occasional bout of melancholy. I know there are times when I’m temporarily struck with a sense of sadness or longing or despondency. For many, these transitory feelings are normal, a part of the ebb and flow of our human condition. Nevertheless, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the way I feel and the mechanics of how I think.

We’ve all heard that coffee can help ward off feelings of depression. Thousands of studies have been conducted that illustrate this fact. The antioxidants found in coffee have been shown to boost the effects of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help pass along signals from one part of the brain to another. Two common neurotransmitters related to mood are serotonin and norepinephrine.

Amino acids, like Tyrosine, may help boost the production of neurotransmitters and is found in foods that are high in protein. Antioxidants are another tool we can look to to help ward off feelings of sadness. Antioxidants help destroy free radicals, which are created through our normal bodily functions. The brain and its delicate balance of neurotransmitters, is especially susceptible to the damage of free radicals.

There are foods that we can eat that may help ward off many off many of the feelings associated with depression as they contain antioxidants, amino acids and promote the production and distribution of neurotransmitters.  For instance, did you know that

  • The fatty acids found in salmon help regulate mood?
  • Studies reveal that saffron wields antidepressant effects comparable to Prozac?
  • Antioxidants found in chocolate lower stress hormones like cortisol?
  • Carbs aid in the production of serotonin?

Here are some additional suggestions of true ‘comfort food’ that may help improve your mood:

Antioxidants:

  • Apricots
  • Broccoli
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Nuts

Carbohydrates:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Tyrosine rich foods:

  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Soy products

Have you tried to combat feelings of sadness through monitoring your nutrition? What’s your definition of ‘comfort food’ and do you think it needs redefining?

Photo credit: Joits

 

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