What images come to mind when you hear the phrase comfort food? Mashed potatoes covered with gravy? Macaroni and cheese? Maybe an ice cream sundae? Many people turn to food to help them erase a bad day, get over a bad argument or make them feel less stressed. But, the comfort foods we turn to most are usually laden with calories and offer little nutritional value, leaving us feeling tired and groggy, not comfortable at all– so why do we keep calling them comfort foods?

Certain food may remind us of home or good times, so it’s natural we may turn to them when feeling down. Is it a connection between food and memory? Yes. Is it actually making us feel comfortable? No.

It’s true your mood may improve immediately after eating cookies or cake, but we shouldn’t confuse this sensation with feeling comforted – your insulin is spiking and once it drops again you are going to feel drained. A sugar crash or glucose crash is the fatigue that comes after consuming a large quantity of carbohydrates. It’s described as a sense of tiredness, lethargy and irritation – sound comfortable to you?

If a sweet tooth isn’t your problem, you may have trouble resisting foods like fried chicken, pizza or french fries. Fatty foods cause immediate side effects such as gas, heartburn, bloating and acid reflux – how is that comfortable?

So, if comfort foods don’t make you feel comfortable – which foods can actually make you feel good? Here are just a few:

  • Blueberries. The list of health benefits of blueberries is long: they combat aging, support digestion and promote heart health.
  • Oysters. Along with being considered an aphrodisiac, oysters are incredibly low in calories and decrease inflammation.
  • Coffee. The caffeine found in coffee can increase mental focus and athletic ability.

The bottom line is – some foods may taste good going down, but the after affects are simply not worth it. Don’t get me wrong – everyone should live life. Eat birthday cake, celebrate anniversaries, but just keep it in check. If you experience physical discomfort or feelings of guilt after you eat, you probably took it too far. Life is about balance; your diet should be too.