Marcel Proust understood the power of comfort food, and his experience with a simple, almond cookie made his autobiographical novel – In Search of Lost Times – an instant classic. Because comfort foods often evoke warm and cozy memories from happy times, we are doubly challenged to find ways of knowing and working with the emotions and chemicals that drive us toward eating unhealthy versions of our favorite comfort foods, or the most insidious compulsion – overindulgence.
A Better Way to Celebrate Life
One goal of good living: find ways to make your comfort foods work for you instead of against you on a seasonal and daily basis. A local librarian confessed she was suffering from an overindulgence in King Cake – a Mardi Gras comfort food favorite here in Louisiana. King Cake is traditionally consumed at week end parties while friends and family enjoy planning activities for Mardi Gras day. Although there are healthy ways to make your own King Cake, if you’re consuming the common, store-bought variety, it may contain unhealthy types of sugar, oil/fat, too much gluten, artificial flavorings and colors, conditioners and preservatives. Some cake products may contain pesticides and herbicides which will be absent in organically grown flours. Going organic with your comfort foods and finding products that contain more healthy ingredients will at least protect you from unnecessary chemicals and make the experience more tasty.
The Chemical Side of Comfort Food
The carbohydrates fructose, sucrose, lactose are simple sugars that come from fruits, cane sugar, and milk sugar. The glycemic index of any carbohydrate will determine how much glucose enters your blood after your sugary comfort food. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are linked to eating foods with a high glycemic index because the body rapidly converts sugars into glucose – and overindulgence will cause your body to store glucose as fat while putting a burden on your pancreas and adrenal glands. Sugars with a high glycemic index can cause mood swings, drowsiness, lethargy. Children are even more affected then adults by sugar overload: aggression, delinquency and other problems in behavior can take over when blood sugar goes out of control.
Manufacturers of artificial sweeteners love to hype the notion of zero calories – seducing us into believing these products will lead to weight loss. You may have already become addicted to artificial sweeteners because they have compromised your taste buds. Some sweeteners may increase your appetite, cause weight gain and put unhealthy chemicals into your body. Refined “natural” sugars will give a quick high and may even feel relaxing – then send you later into a deep slump or depression.
TIP: Avoid all products and recipes with white or refined sugar such as maltose, dextrose, sucrose and glucose. Healthier alternatives include organic, raw or unrefined brown sugar, organic (responsibly harvested) honey, real maple syrup, barley or rice malt, and blackstrap molasses because they release more slowly into your body. New tastier forms of organic stevia work well with herbal teas. Drink stevia sweetened herbal teas between meals to help with cravings.
Next Post Topic: Rituals and Supplements for Defeating the Vicious Cycle of Over Indulgence
Author’s Note: As I reached the scientific literature, I also interviewed people about what sort of comfort foods they really like. It soon became evident that I would need to write several posts on the topic of comfort food. If you would like to read the entire series as it becomes available, please like and follow this blog. Also, I would love to include some of my readers experiences with comfort foods in future posts, so please leave comments. Thanks!