You’ve had a bad breakup, a rotten day at work or you’re just too exhausted to cook. You’re craving comfort, something to soothe your mood. So, you reach for … a salad?
Probably not. But if it’s happiness you want, those leafy greens are a far better choice than a tub of ice cream or a bowl of mac and cheese, according to the American Heart Association News (AHA)
“You might have an initial nice feeling, but comfort foods are ultimately discomfort for the brain,” said Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist, chef and director of nutritional and metabolic psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Eating ice cream and high-carb foods feels good because it sends tryptophan to the brain, said Naidoo, who wrote a book published in 2020 that explored the connections between food, mood and the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body make serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. But that good feeling can become addictive, causing the body to crave foods that will ultimately lower mood as it also raises blood sugar. Foods high in sugar, refined flour or saturated fats activate inflammation, which is strongly linked to depression.