Are you eating your way to sadness?

Published: Sunday 19th April 2015 by The News Editor

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We’re programmed to reach for certain foods when we’re feeling low, and usually these foods are based on sugar or carbs.

A recent survey by Tilda rice ( found that seven out of 10 women, and half of men, indulge in cakes, sweets and chocolates when they’re stressed or looking for a mood boost.

The trouble is, these sugary delights won’t bring your mood up. Quite the opposite, in fact, and experts say our reliance on sweet treats as a pick-me-up actually means we’re “eating our way to sadness”.

Basically, this is all because of spiking blood sugar levels, explains clinical dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker.

“After eating sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can rise rapidly which may cause feelings of stress and anxiety, only to crash soon after, which can then leave you feeling lethargic or in low spirits,” she says.

“We need to replace the short-lived highs we get from refined sugar and processed fat with healthier options. It’s shocking to see wholesome eating habits go out the window when we face a challenge in the day, or a lull in a routine. This is when healthy eating is most important.”

With this in mind, Dr Schenker is working with Tilda and food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson to launch a new ‘Eat Your Way to Happiness’ campaign, to help more of us make better food choices when we’re looking for a boost during a bad day.

So if biscuits and ice cream are out, what should we be reaching for?

Top 3 healthy comfort foods

Brazil nuts

Your thyroid plays a key role in your mood, but to work properly it relies on selenium.

Dr Schenker says: “Brazil nuts are the richest source of the mineral selenium, containing 10 times more than the next richest source. Selenium-rich food helps to combat depression.”

You can incorporate them into your daily diet by having a small handful of Brazil nuts between meals, or sprinkling them into yoghurt with grated dark chocolate.


“Wholegrain basmati is a great addition to the diet,” says Dr Schenker. “It’s a low-GI food so it contains the type of carbohydrate that releases energy slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels steady and maintaining a more balanced, calm mood.”

Dr Fergusson advises serving wholegrain basmati rice with curries, stews, casseroles and tagines.


Frequently lauded as a superfood, it’s no wonder broccoli makes you happy as well as healthy.

Dr Schenker says: “To make the feel-good chemical serotonin, your body needs a healthy supply of B vitamins, including fabulous folate.”

Half a cup of broccoli is all you need for 52mg of folate, says Dr Fergusson. She recommends steaming your broccoli, then adding it to omelettes and risottos.

Things that bring back good memories

This ‘food’ might be a bit harder to pinpoint, and will depend on each individual, but nutritionist Juliette Kellow believes that when you’re feeling blue, you should eat food that brings back “lovely memories of warm sunny days on holiday” as this is a great link to your brain to boost your mood.

“Florida grapefruits are one of my favourite choices,” she says. “They’re super sweet and juicy because they’re grown in a subtropical climate, and you can make a delicious dessert, sprinkling the cut side of half a grapefruit with a little mixed spice, then brush it with honey and grill until the top is caramelised and golden.”

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Sunday 19th April 2015 by The News Editor

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