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Carbs, Comfort, and Cauliflower

Intelligent Gourmet imageWhen you’re feeling down – whether because of hormones, a bad day, or too little sleep – you’ve probably noticed that you go straight to the carbs in your cupboard for comfort. For me, it’s pasta and wine. For you it might be cookies, or bread, or chips. Emotional eating is hard to curb because, well, it works. At least in the short term (you won’t be feeling so hot the next morning!).

Here’s why it works.

In the Psychology Today article “The Antidepressant Diet” by Dr. Judith Wurtman, she makes the case that we crave carbs to help regulate our emotions because carbs are integral in creating serotonin – one of the body’s feel-good chemicals (one with the added bonus of curbing food cravings and suppressing appetite): “Serotonin makes you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, more tranquil and even more focused and energetic.”

The best combination, according to her studies with her husband Dr. Richard Wurtman, is eating protein and carbs together. Protein is rich in tryptophan, necessary for serotonin production, and is absorbed best when there are carbohydrates in your system at the same time.

But there are carbs like pasta and sweets – and there are carbs like cauliflower. One is stripped of nutrients, the other helps fight cancer. Which would you rather have? Okay, probably still the pasta and sweets. Let me make a case for that cauliflower though.

Cauliflower is an incredibly flexible vegetable. Steam it in the microwave, add a little garlic and cottage cheese, then use an immersion blender and you have fantastic “mashed potatoes.” You can use it to make Gluten Free flatbreads, and I found a recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Bites on Pinterest this morning (check it out on my Intelligent Appetizers board).

Yes, I am giving you an excuse to give in to your emotional eating – but do it wisely. Your body is craving a protein and carb cocktail to make you feel better. By using Cauliflower as your carb, you won’t just feel better now, you’ll feel great tomorrow morning in front of the mirror too!