Will comfort eating keep you in a happy and satisfied mood this winter? Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains how and why comfort food can boost our mood
There’s plenty of evidence to show that what we eat is linked to our emotions, but the relationship is sometimes complex.
It has also been shown that many health conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and PMS are affected by mood and in some cases addressing what you eat can help manage them.
Mood and food can also be thought of as a two-way street, because either your mood determines what you eat or what you eat (or don’t eat) affects your mood, which can affect certain nutrients. May be due to insufficient intake of elements.
What about comfort food?
Comfort food is common in winter as people are trying to uplift their mood. A recent survey by wellness brand Healthspan found that 23 percent of those surveyed said they turn to comfort food during the winter months to beat the winter blues.
However, comfort eating can lead to weight gain, which can negatively affect mood. The short-term effects of eating certain comfort foods can also cause feelings of guilt in some people.
So it may be helpful to redefine the meaning of comfort foods.
Comfort Foods Should Be Comforting
Rob Hobson explains, ‘It’s important to redefine what comfort means because some foods can go bad. Head of Nutrition at Healthspan.
‘Forget sugary foods, burgers and takeaways, as this source of comfort is short-lived and often fraught with guilt. Comfort foods should be comfortable, which means they should nourish and nourish you with the vital nutrients that will support your health and well-being.
‘The very savory flavor and umami are perfect and can be found in bowl foods such as soups, broths, casseroles, stews and curries’.
Read more: 5 Healthy Pasta Recipes Perfect for the Weekend
Why do we turn to comfort foods in winter?
Evolution may have something to do with it. Before we had housing, heating and other comforts, humans needed to gain weight to stay warm.
This survival mechanism may be innate in us and is the reason why we crave high sugar and fat foods during winters.
Habit can also play a role because we tend to seek out foods we are familiar with. The nostalgia of certain foods reminds us of our childhood, making for a pleasurable feeling.
How do our hormones play a role?
These neurotransmitters affect mood and feelings of happiness and well-being; During digestion, complex processes involving the brain release these chemicals.
These chemicals are also released in response to exercise and sunlight, which tend to decrease during the winter. During the winter, we may seek out certain foods that give us more gusto to help boost our mood.
The body needs an amino acid called tryptophan to make serotonin.
A lack of sunlight during winter can also result in low serotonin levels. It is also believed that there are lower serotonin levels during the menstrual cycle, which can cause cravings.
The body needs an amino acid called tryptophan to make serotonin. Consuming carbohydrates can help with this because it triggers the release of insulin that draws other amino acids into the body’s cells, leaving tryptophan a clear path to the brain without competition. This may be the reason why we crave carbohydrate foods during the colder months.
Read more: 5 easy grain bowl recipes for guilt-free comfort food
How are some nutrients linked to mood?
Many nutrients in the diet link directly to mood, which can result in fatigue and tiredness or increase the risk of disorders such as depression and anxiety.
The primary source of this vitamin is the sun. Research has shown that many of us have deficient levels during the winter.
Low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ have been linked to seasonal depression, known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
You can get vitamin D from foods such as eggs, oily fish and fortified foods.
a Recent studies have also shown that supplementing with vitamin D may help reduce symptoms associated with depression.
You can get vitamin D from foods such as eggs, oily fish and fortified foods. Mushrooms can also synthesize vitamin D from the sun, and some supermarkets now stock varieties that are rich in this nutrient.
A good strategy to supplement once the clocks in to boost your intake, try Healthspan Vitamin D3 Vegan Blackcurrant Gummies, £8.95,
Read more: 6 Healthy Comfort Foods for Autumn
B vitamins and magnesium
The body needs both the B vitamin complex and magnesium to convert food into energy. These nutrients are also depleted during times of stress which can lead to a decline in mood as fatigue and tiredness sets in.
Magnesium is essential if you are experiencing stress, as even low levels can lead to a deficiency, which can increase your risk of anxiety. Scarcity and scarcity together form a vicious cycle.
B vitamins are found in many different foods, so eating a varied diet can help ensure your intake. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, beans and pulses.
Read more: 3 Low Carb Dinner Recipes That’ll Actually Fill You Up
high fiber foods
Low blood sugar levels can make you feel jittery and unable to concentrate properly, so making sure you eat regularly and avoid skipping meals is advised to protect your mood .
The food you choose is also important, and to maintain stable blood sugar levels, you should include plenty of fiber in your diet. Fiber helps slow the release of glucose from the food you eat.
The type of foods you choose to eat is also essential. Switch from processed (white) grains to whole and whole grain varieties such as bread, pasta and rice.
Also, include beans and lentils as they are the richest source of dietary fiber.
Read more: Brain food: 7 key nutrients for a healthy brain
Iron produces red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. Low iron levels can significantly affect your mood as it causes extreme tiredness and fatigue.
In the UK, 23 per cent of women have too little iron in their diet. You can increase your iron intake by eating red meat, oily fish, beans, nuts, dark green vegetables, and dried fruits.
Planning your diet during the winter months can help you beat the winter blues. There’s nothing wrong with comfort eating, but reconsider the foods that are most likely to bring you real comfort over the foods that are more likely to lead to weight gain and feelings of guilt.