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Perspective: The Dirt On Comfort Foods

Susan Stephens
Famed DeKalb-area comfort food, "beer nuggets."

Although it’s only mid-November, the weather’s taken quite the wintery turn. While we’re laying in supplies for our Thanksgiving dinners, we may find ourselves stocking up on other comfort foods, as well. There are scientific reasons we crave high calorie treats, especially this time of year.  


Comfort food sparks the production of dopamine and serotonin, two all-natural, “feel good” chemicals. 


Another reason has to do with evolution. Prehistoric ancestors didn’t mind the extra pounds that energy dense, high calorie food added to their waistlines during the colder months. Extra weight offered a layer of protection against the elements and security against food scarcity. Chowing down on comfort food was an intuitively healthy thing to do. 


Today, though, we need to practice a little more intentionality in our diets. A little “mind over munchies,” so to speak. 


Nutritional psychiatry, which explores the link between diet and mental health, suggests that what we eat plays a significant role in how we feel. Getting kids to eat their veggies pays off in terms of physical AND mental well-being. Fresh fruits and veggies offer protection from anxiety and depression. Getting the right nutrients can also guard against Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can kick in right about now. 


The next two months also present a risk for something I call “Seasonal Eating Disorder.” To protect yourself, balance occasional indulgences in decadent dishes with healthy choices the rest of the time. Not only might your New Year’s resolutions be a bit different, you might look AND feel different, too, when 2020 rolls around. 


I’m Suzanne Degges-White, and that's my Perspective. 

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