Q: I believe comfort foods exist for a reason; they give you comfort! What’s so bad about a bowl of mac and cheese or a slice of pie every once in a while if you want a little taste of happiness? – Gladys F., Franklin, Tennessee
A: Glad you brought this up, because we aren’t against true comfort foods. In fact, we believe food should provide the ultimate comfort: good health! But the notion that you can get comfort from a load of added sugar or fat is like saying you can get true happiness from an addictive drug. Not really. There may be a temporary lift, but the burden of addiction certainly erases any of that pleasure, and then you’re stuck! The same is true for a whole range of processed foods that are sugar- and syrup-added and saturated- and trans-fat-laden. They may give you a dopamine rush – that pleasure hormone – but then they let you down hard.
In fact, the latest research shows that high glycemic index foods, like white rice, soda and baked goods, that are rapidly converted to sugar (and spike blood sugar levels) fuel depression. So that hot fudge sundae or plate of pasta that you gobble down when you’re blue feels good in the short term (like cocaine), but ultimately betrays you and makes you feel worse.
Want to feel happier? The researchers found high-fiber foods like fruits and veggies, 100 percent whole grains and lactose in low-fat or nonfat dairy improve the mix of bacteria in your gut. And that seems to protect you from depression. So here’s our proposal for true comfort food: a bowl of hot oatmeal with nonfat, no-sugar-added Greek yogurt, a handful of blueberries and six walnut halves. Or how about a plate of oven-roasted veggies coated with a dash of olive oil and garlic and a hummus dip? And try a summer smoothie whipped up with fresh fruit, tasty greens (kale? spinach?) and kefir. Now, that’s comfort.
© 2015 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.