Donuts Taste Better Than Prozac: Study Shows

No, there isn’t any such study, but I’d like to talk about the link between depression and comfort foods. For many of us, eating is another form of self-medicating. In fact, neurologically, high-carbohydrate foods do chemically alleviate feelings of stress and depression – but not for long. Yet brain chemistry is powerful stuff. In the book Overcoming Overeating: It’s Not What You Eat, It’s What’s Eating You by Lisa Morrone, she cites a startling percentage: 75 percent of overeating is caused by emotions. And, as emotional eaters know, it’s not always possible to distract yourself from food by reading a book or going for a walk (common advice in multiple articles). However, you can substitute damaging food with foods that will help you heal – and feel better.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center found that women tend to crave carbs and sweets when their cortisol levels were raised by stressful events. Cortisol is not only responsible for the stress reaction, it also causes food cravings and triggers an enzyme in fat cells that creates even more cortisol! Stress has even been linked specifically to increasing belly fat. And, when you eat carbs and sugar, they trigger the neurotransmitter serotonin which rushes in to make you feel better. Dealing with emotions with carb-filled, sugary foods simply isn’t very effective – but when you’re stressed and depressed, you aren’t in any state to make logical decisions. Sometimes, the best you can do is have healthy, stress-busting substitutes on-hand.

Curbing The Carb-Craving

What is your high-carb weakness? For me, it’s pasta. There is nothing like a big bowl of pasta to make everything right with the world (for about 10 minutes). I’ve discovered that I can achieve the same calming effect by either using Sphagetti Squash or julienne-peeled zucchini, sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic and smothered with low-fat marinara sauce. A giant bowl of pasta might set you back 600 to 700 calories; but a giant bowl of zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash is about 80 to 120 calories (before sauce).

Subs for The Sweet Tooth

A bowl-full of blueberries, strawberries or raspberries may not be as exciting as a donut, but you’ll feel better with these thanks to the anthocyanin antioxidant (linked to sharper cognition) and vitamin C. Vitamin C, according to several studies, reduces cortisol levels in stressful situations.

Managing The Munchies

Un-shelled pistachios will keep your hands busy and slow down the munchie-fest – and according to a study out of Penn State published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association Journal, pistachios also reduce the body’s responses to everyday stressors. Pistachios are among the lowest calorie, lowest fat, and highest fiber nuts.

Finding the Source

Perhaps the most important substitute you can make is eliminating the causes of your emotional eating. Try this: On one side of a page, make a list of all the people, responsibilities, and other things in your life that make you stressed and unhappy. On the other side of the page, see if you can write out solutions to those problems. I think you’ll find that you can get rid of many of them and find ways to moderate the rest. It’s all about balance.