Fighting Stress With Food


Samantha Lopez

Comfort foods, something that during times of stress we find happiness, nostalgia and, well, comfort in. In addition to comfort food, eating healthy is also a way of stimulating serotonin and dopamine for a sense of well being. 

In an article released by Aetna, the author, Alice Gomstyn, touches on how certain foods can cause the release of serotonin and dopamine. “Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affect neurotransmitter production.” 

Gomstyn also explains the effects of eating junk food and sugar. She states that eating junk food causes inflammation and can hinder production. 

Senior Haley Reay states, “Yes I do think eating healthy affects your mental health. If you’re not eating properly then your body will feel those effects. The effects on your body then do the same to your head and it’s not good. You’ll feel groggy and weighed down, depressed even when you’re not eating healthy. But when you do finally eat healthy you feel lighter and happier.” 

When eating sugar, it causes the opposite effect than eating healthy. Instead of the production of “good” bacteria, it causes the production of “bad” bacteria. Sugar also causes a spike in the “feel good” neurotransmitters by causing the brain to release Endorphins, which are the body’s natural opioids. Sometimes, the body craves for extra opioids which can lead to withdrawal symptoms once you stop feeding your addiction.  

Some foods to help keep healthy are: whole foods, fiber, antioxidants, folate, magnesium, and fermented foods. I know fermented foods sound gross for those who don’t grow up eating them, but they are packed with probiotics which are really good for you. Some examples of probiotics are: kefir, traditional yogurt, tempeh, miso, kombucha, natto, buttermilk, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, as well as green olives, and many others.

 Hannah Crandell states “I have a lot of stomach issues so when I eat whole, nutritious foods my mental health throughout the day is drastically different than on a day that I eat highly processed foods or foods that I know my body doesn’t like, like dairy.” 

When asked how she thinks the food she eats effects her mental health senior Felicia Aguilar answered “Uhm I’m not too sure, to be honest I think that the type of food you eat really impacts mental wellness because when you eat healthier and gain better habits as far as eating goes, your mental health is improved by comparison to say a diet that involves a lot of junk food and things that are not especially healthy for you.” 

Though comfort foods are a good way for people to destress after a long day, you still need to be careful, that constant reliance on your comfort food could, in the end, become an emotional eating habit. 

So remember, eating healthy foods and comfort food (in moderation) is a good way to boost your mental health and make you feel so much better throughout your day. Remember that eating healthy is good for you, but it is also okay to stick your hand in the cookie jar every once in a while to add a little spice to your healthy eating habits.