The concept of “comfort food” has been around for a while, but the scientific understanding of it is relatively new. Data from the last decade or two has shown that specific nutrients can reduce stress, release feel-good chemicals, and even help us relax.
Here are a few illustrations.
1] Dark Chocolate
Most of us have a strong suspicion that the rest of the world is mistaken about chocolate: it can’t possibly be entirely bad.
The good news is that we were partially correct: dark chocolate consumption has been linked to lower levels of cortisol, our stress hormone. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate are thought to be the reason for this.
The bad news is that milk chocolate lovers should be aware that anything less than 70% dark chocolate does not qualify. Also, the mood-enhancing properties of dark chocolate don’t actually eliminate the calories, which are still very much present – so sticking to a moderate quantity, based on your target calorie consumption, is still generally a good idea.
2] Tea and Coffee
We all know that the caffeine in tea and coffee keeps us alert and energized.
Another fantastic effect they may have on us is to improve our mood. Drinking these beverages has been linked to a lower risk of depression, presumably because to the presence of plant chemicals (phytonutrients) that fight free radical damage. Free radicals may have a role in biological processes that lead to depression, such as the modification of particular nerves, according to some data.
Tea also has an amino acid called theanine, which generates brain waves (‘alpha waves’) that induce relaxation. It is also believed to improve attention and general cognition in combination with the tea’s caffeine.
We don’t realize how much our gut and brain communicate.
The Stomach-Brain Axis is an interesting phenomena in which healthy bacteria in our gut prevent dangerous poisons from entering our bloodstream (which come from the food we eat). When there aren’t enough healthy bacteria, these toxins can travel via our bloodstream to other parts of our bodies, including the brain, where they can impact our mental well-being.
Increasing data suggests that foods or supplements that increase the number of beneficial bacteria in our gut can change the way we process emotional information, lowering anxiety levels.
Yogurt is a fantastic example of ‘probiotics,’ which are foods that contain living bacteria and increase the number of beneficial bacteria in our stomach.
When our bodies break down carbohydrates into sugar, the brain produces dopamine, a feel-good hormone that activates our brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Researchers believe they also release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of happiness and well-being.
A year-long study found that eating an extremely low-carb diet (of 20 to 40 grams carbs per) for lengthy periods of time causes anxiety, irritability, and despair.
On the other hand, processed carbohydrates aren’t beneficial for you. Aside from sending our blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster – a sudden high followed by a swift plummet, leaving us feeling weak and needing more sugar – it also sends our calorie count skyrocketing.
A diet rich in whole grains and fiber-rich foods such as fruit and beans has been demonstrated to decrease the absorption of sugar into the body, preventing the blood sugar rollercoaster.
The fiber also encourages the formation of good bacteria in our stomach, which, according to, is a fantastic approach to relieve anxiety.
Coconut is already widely used for a variety of health reasons, but it was just recently revealed to be a stress reliever!
Coconut oil’s antidepressant properties have been attributed to a unique combination of antioxidants and good fats (particularly medium chain fatty acids) found in the oil.
Three servings of fatty fish like salmon and mackerel every week, believe it or not, could be the key to a happy mind!
These oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential not only for healthy skin, eyesight, and immunity, but also for mental well-being.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in many brain regions. Supplementing our diet with DHA and another omega-3 fatty acid called EPA has been linked to improved stress tolerance, as well as reduced symptoms of sadness and an increased mood, according to research.
More good news: tryptophan, an amino acid present in protein-rich diets, has been shown to make serotonin, one of our feel-good chemicals. Another reason that fish can help us improve our mental health is because it is a good source of protein.
Spice jars on your kitchen shelves can do more than enhance the flavor of your meals; they can also improve your mood! Here’s how some of them have a positive impact on us:
This spice’s antidepressant properties are so strong that it’s been likened to antidepressants like fluoxetine and imipramine. These medications function by ensuring that our brain receives adequate serotonin, thereby elevating our mood.
Turmeric gets its vivid yellow colour from a molecule called curcumin, which has antidepressant characteristics and protects us from the negative consequences of long-term stress, according to studies. Curcumin has also been related to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, two of our “happy hormones.”
III] Chilli Peppers:
Chilli peppers include a molecule called capsaicin, which helps the body release endorphins, which are natural painkillers that also help us retain a pleasant mood.
All of these foods include specific nutrients that lead to improved moods, but there’s no denying that eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, in general, is beneficial to our mental health. After all, the fact that health is so closely linked to happiness isn’t a coincidence!
While the above article guides you to eating healthier, there is no substitute for customized professional advice given by a qualified nutritionist. We urge you to speak to your personal dietician or if you need help, contact a nutritionist at Qua Nutrition.
You can contact us at 09743430000 or log on to quanutrition.com to Book An Appointment.