April / June 2017
By Anisha Anand
We all love comfort food. But what is comfort food, exactly? The Oxford dictionary defines it is as “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”
We have all had the experience of food evoking memories associated with a celebration or a special occasion, the people we shared the meal with, or the person who cooked the food for us. So, it is normal for us to associate being comforted and happy with a particular food or dish and its aroma or texture. Sometimes, when we feel low or overwhelmed, we also feel a need for comfort. In this case, what are we really looking for? Is it emotional comfort or does our body really need fuel, energy and nutrients? This is the time we tend to reach for those sugary and processed food “treats.”
The reasons for our comfort food cravings may be very complex, ranging from a need for more energy or low blood sugar, to our gut (gastrointestinal tract) microbes sending hunger signals to our brain, or even varying levels of various hormones and chemicals in our body, like serotonin or dopamine. (A very large percentage of serotonin is actually created in the gut.) We’re only beginning to understand the connection between gut microbes and the brain, but we already know that they may have an effect on the formation of our memories, our emotions, and even the way that we make decisions. Research is also telling us that various nutrients, or lack thereof, can impact our mood and the foods we crave. When we are feeling low, we actually need healthy and nutritious food even more. That old saying “You are what you eat.” is true. Everything we eat eventually determines our long-term health. While our gut health is a factor in our overall health, it also seems to help determine our mood and, in turn, possibly our food selections.
In moderation, comfort food can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered, but habitually finding comfort in food can get us all in trouble. So, the next time you need comfort, ask yourself, “Am I hungry or do I want a hug?” If you really are hungry, try a healthier version of a favorite comfort food. With the right ingredients, pizza and chocolate can be nutritious too!
Gluten Free Pizza
For the Crust
- 1/2 cup quinoa, soaked in 1" of water
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping tablespoon Gluten Free flour
- 1/2 grated small zucchini (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
- Black pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup shredded organic mozzarella or favorite vegan cheese
- Fresh herbs, such as basil
- Red pepper flakes
- Finely sliced zucchini, onions and roasted red peppers
- Roasted garlic
- Soak the quinoa in water overnight or for about 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Line a 9-inch pie dish with high sides with parchment paper and drizzle one tablespoon of oil in the center. Spread around with your fingers or spatula until well coated.
- Rinse the quinoa with fresh water, add quinoa and the 1/4 cup of water, baking powder, salt, grated and dried zucchini and remaining olive oil, and blend on high until smooth and creamy, with a texture similar to pancake batter.
- Add the herbs and garlic or you may sprinkle the herbs after next step.
- Adjust the oven temperature now to 415 F.
- Pour batter into prepared pie dish and bake for 12–15 minutes. The base should look well set now and will flip easily. If it seems soft on the top, cook another minute or so. Flip crust and return to oven baking for another 12–15 minutes until browned and crispy.
- Top crust with sauce, cheese and any other toppings you’d like. Then bake for 10–15 minutes until cheese has melted.
- Remove from the oven and enjoy!
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1-2 handful fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup ice, if using fresh fruit, to chill smoothie
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao
- 2-3 prunes or dates
- 1 soaked brazil nut
- 1 handful of fresh wheatgrass or 1 teaspoon wheatgrass powder
- 1/3 cup soaked walnuts
- 1/4 cup soaked almonds – you can also use 1/2 cup almond milk, leave out the water if using almond milk
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and enjoy!