Diet & Nutrition

Science says comfort food is a real thing

Can we literally eat the pain away?

We all get the blues sometimes and sweet relief is just a cheesecake away.
Here’s the takeaway doughnut message – sweet tasting foods have been found to have an analgesic effect. We can literally eat the pain away.
In a recent study from a Texas university, it was shown that when we’re in physical or emotional pain we tend to lose some self control and go for instant gratification. And, yes, doing that helps a little by stimulating the “feel good” part of the brain.
This impulse seems to be entirely natural. “Comfort eating” is a real thing.
So that familiar scene in the movies where a broken heart is partly mended by a tub of ice cream and a spoon? It has some truth to it… Although we already knew that, didn’t we?
Nutritionists are always giving free advice on the healthy stuff to eat instead of reaching for the chocolate when we’re feeling down, but you can’t help feeling Hollywood’s not buying it.
Honestly, when was the last time you saw a scene in a movie that went like this…
Heart-broken woman: “Waaah, my boyfriend just dumped me and I’m feeling terrible!”
BFF: “I’ll be right over with a plate of anchovies, herrings and sardines and I’ll make a pot of green tea to cheer you up.”
Heart-broken woman: “Are you for real?”
BFF: “Sure. Cold-water fish is full of mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acid DHA and green tea has the amino acid L-theanine which has been shown on EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves.”
Heart-broken woman: “Pardon?”
BFF: “OK then, how about some delicious pumpkin and almond seeds, choc-a-bloc with magnesium that will boost you energy levels and maybe a Hugh Jackman movie?”
Heart broken woman: “Did you say chocol…”
BFF: “NO CHOCOLATE! That will just set up your brain for sugar cravings and make you overeat more.”
Heart-broken woman: “Did you just say he dumped me because I’m fat?”
BFF: “No, No, I didn’t. Honestly, he’s an idiot, everyone knew… No, we didn’t. We all thought he was great! You have brilliant taste in men.
“Look, why don’t I come over and cook you a scrummy omelette? Rich in B vitamins, especially B-6 and B-12. It will improve your neural function which helps govern mood.”
Heart-broken woman: “Weeeeell… an omelette would be lovely. With lots of fried bacon and a pile of buttered white bread toast…”
BFF: “Skip the bacon and the buttered toast, but I’ll try to find an ancient grain loaf – maybe quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, spelt and barley – to increase your levels of serotonin.”
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Heart-broken woman: “On second thoughts, forget it. It’s either Krispy Kreme doughnuts and bottle of Chardy with a straw or nothing. Sob.”
BFF: “Sigh. Do you want original glazed, mudcake or strawberry jam?”
Heart-broken woman: “Bring me ALL of the doughnuts. NOW!”
BFF: “OK. See you soon.”Heart-broken woman: Squeee! I’m feeling better already.”
Those researchers at that Texas university are really onto something.
Words: Wendy Harmer