myFM: Comfort food

by Lianne Phillipson February 16, 2022

myFM: Comfort food

What is your comfort food? 

Is it Chicken Noodle soup when you’re sick, or toast and jam that your mom used to make for you? Comfort food not only brings up memories of being cared for and comforted, but also the security of childhood that you have provided for your children (if you have them). 

Are most of your comfort foods carbs? You might think that they make us happier—and not just because they're delicious, but they actually have a chemical reaction because theyboost your brain's release of serotonin – the chemical in the brain that helps you feel calm and satisfied.

Then there’s the flip side that comfort foods are typically high in fat or sugar, energy-dense, and may have relatively low nutrition value. These foods maytrigger an emotional response or a temporary feeling of stress relief. Some foods release an increased level of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter that plays a role in how humans feel pleasure.

Sidebar: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between the brain cells. Dopamine is all about motivation, reward, and pleasure. It gives us a feel-good sensation. 

So when you eat comfort food that tastes good and is rewarding, you get a rush of dopamine. Your brain remembers this connection between your behaviour–the comfort food you ate, and then the reward–that positive feeling. It almost becomes automatic as you hit a stressful part of your day or get into a habit of self-soothing with food, even if it’s short-lived. Sometimes just thinking about and anticipating the cinnamon bun, chocolate, brownie or fancy coffee can generate that dopamine release. 

The concern is that you end up on a rollercoaster of avoiding the real issue, and also messing up your blood sugar balance, leading to more carb and sugar cravings and then weight gain, diabetes, Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver disease, or NAFLD (more on that in episode 73 of EAT THIS with Lianne). 

No, it doesn’t quite conjure up the same comfort feeling to sit with abowl of blueberries, but adding in dark chocolate could. And it has a ton of health benefits includingiron, magnesium, zinc, needed for energy, immunity and so much more. The flavanols and antioxidants also help overall health and reduce inflammation in your brain and body. So maybe it’s time to change things up and see what new habits you can create to comfort yourself with healthy food or something else. 

Listen to segment below!

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