Food for Mood: The Good and Bad of Comfort Food
Let’s be real, we all have been there done that. On stressful days or maybe just during lazy days, we tend to crave for pizza instead of salads and mozzarella sticks instead of carrots. It’s not always wrong -comfort food, but it’s not always healthy either.
I’ve come to realise that the more we are put in a stressful environment, the more carbohydrate we crave. Why is that?
Our brain consumes half of our daily carbohydrate requirements. Even though it accounts for only 2% of our body weight, it takes a lot of energy to fuel it.
“Under acute stress, the brain requires some 12% more energy, leading many to reach for sugary snacks.” — Achim Peters
Just like working out, when our brain is ‘working’ under stress and is lacking rest, we will continue to look for energy supply. Therefore we will keep on craving food with a high carbohydrate such as junk foods and sweets, to ensure that our brain is not undersupplied. So, as sugar (glucose) is a form of carbohydrate, acute stress tends to lead us to unwrap that bar of Cadbury milky chocolate instead of say… a banana.
Comfort food might not be always that comforting
Studies have found that comfort food might be good sometimes for the mood. When we don’t really have the time to pick a healthy meal and our body is asking for energy from food, snacking junks might be a temporary answer.
When our body is asking for energy, we should not neglect it so the brain can continue to function for the whole body. When we do not feed it, our body burns stored energy from elsewhere but this will make us lose focus from time to time.
“If a person craves chocolate in the afternoon, I advise him or her to eat chocolate to stay fit and keep his or her spirits up. That’s because at work people are often stressed and the brain has an increased need for energy. If one doesn’t eat anything, it’s possible the brain will use glucose from the body, intended for fat and muscle cell use, and in turn secrete more stress hormones. Not only does this make one miserable, but it can also increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke or depression in the long run.” — Sandra Allonen, a dietitian with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.
So I personally think the myth of junk food is bad for your health is both wrong and right. The key is to put your self-control to the test. Too much of it can cause non-communicable diseases (NDC) in the long run, having none of it can cause you to lose focus and feel fatigued in the short-term. Being disciplined in how often you eat your comfort food and how many portions of it will help you stay fit and energised.
PS: Top it with staying hydrated! Water helps with everything.
Let’s stay healthy!