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Stress: Is comfort food a good thing?

I don’t know about you but my year so far has been extremely busy! Like many other women, I’m prone to stress. I spread myself thinly, over-commit and often end up feeling highly stressed with far too many things on my ‘to do’ list.

When we’re stressed, high levels of cortisol can result in food cravings, often for things such as refined carbohydrates and sweets. This can become a vicious cycle where we consume the foods that will temporarily make us feel better, but actually make us feel worse in the long term. Which in turn can lead to more stress, and can damage our immune system so that we become ‘run-down’ or sick.

When our bodies are stressed, we store more fat – and so the cycle of stress (particularly for women) continues. The so-called ‘comfort foods’ that we naturally reach for don’t actually alleviate stress in the way we desire. All sorts of foods have beneficial anti-stress properties that help our bodies to naturally balance stress hormones.

Vitamin C-rich foods, eg. berries, oranges and kiwifruit, are thought to have a lowering effect on cortisol levels in the body, as are dark chocolate and chamomile tea. If you are craving carbohydrates, reach for oatmeal or a banana, both of which are thought to help the body synthesise serotonin, the so-called ‘happy hormone’. If we change the way we view food and focus on what will work to support our bodies in time of stress and anxiety, then what we see as our go to ‘comfort food’ may very well be replaced with wholesome, nourishing and beneficial foods.

This smoothie is super-rich in vitamin C, and is blended with cooled chamomile tea – making it the perfect ‘comfort food’ that is quick and easy to prepare.

Orange, raspberry and beetroot smoothie

Blend together:

  • 40g raw beetroot, grated
  • 2/3 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 cup cooled chamomile tea

Katie

Katie Hawkey is currently studying full time to be a midwife, due to graduate early March 2015. In her spare time (though not much of it!) Katie enjoys creating new recipes, which she adds to both her online blog, Facebook and Instagram. In 2011 Katie was diagnosed with endometriosis, which had been causing severe menstrual issues for her since the age of 13. It is because of both personal and professional reasons that Katie's main interests lie with food in relation to women's health. See Katie's blog Nutritious and Delicious aka Katie in the Kitchen, or follow her on Instagram: katieinthekitchen or Facebook. If you are looking for more information on endometriosis, check out Endometriois NZ.

First published: Mar 2015
Last updated: April 3 2017
Last science review: October 10 2016



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