We all like to feel good, and carbohydrate-rich foods like chocolate, sugar, pastries, ice cream—in other words “comfort foods”—can trigger the body to release biochemical substances called endorphins that reduce pain and bring about a feeling of well-being. Refined carbohydrates and sugar also trigger the brain to release more serotonin, which helps you stay calm, regulates mood and decreases irritability. Sounds great! The catch is that the sugar and refined carbohydrates in these foods also release insulin that causes you to feel worse after the initial “high,” and your craving for these foods is increased. Needless to say, you have those additional pounds to regret and are headed for a host of physical problems down the road.
The story gets better when you understand that your body needs “good” carbohydrates. For comfort and to get in a good mood, try eating more whole grain snacks and protein instead. Make a trail mix of pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, raisins, walnuts, almonds, goji berries and/or dried cranberries. Just eat a handful, as a little goes a long way. Other snack ideas that can help regulate your mood are: sweet potato, hummus or almond butter on a celery stick, and nitrate/sulfite-free sliced turkey breast. Fruits like berries, papaya, and plums are all good for the mood. You can also eat seafood like salmon, cod, mussels and sardines. Whole grains like millet, quinoa and amaranth can help stabilize your mood.
The rule of thumb is: the more sugary foods you eat, the more sugar you will crave. Vice versa, the more functional and healthy foods you eat, the less you will crave sugar.