RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you think that a cookie, a cheeseburger, or a bowl of mac and cheese helps you calm down during a stressful day, you’re actually right. Comfort food really does (temporarily) halt the physiological effects of stress. According to researchers, eating sugar- and fat-rich foods helps bring down levels of stress hormones. While it’s not a healthy long-term solution for dealing with stress, in a pinch this approach sure can work. And by using your own comfort-food recipes instead of grabbing prepackaged foods, you can even make the food a little healthier.
Other studies of the food/mood link have found that eating fat can calm you and lessen your perception of pain. And carbs really do boost mood. For example, if you’re feeling down, a high-carbohydrate snack, such as a toasted English muffin with jam or some popcorn, can work wonders. When high-carbohydrate food isn't accompanied by protein or fat, it allows the amino acid tryptophan to flood your brain, where it becomes serotonin, a mood-lifting, food-craving–busting neurotransmitter that even helps you tolerate pain and can help you get to sleep.
Read on to see recipes for turkey sliders, mashed potatoes, and more comforting foods.