Healthy comfort food: our recipes that give energy to morale and the body
The scene is as follows: the heroine of the film has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Her best friend runs to console her and brings out the heavy artillery: an XXL tub of ice cream. This situation, seen and revisited, could be lifted from any romantic comedy, where ice cream is the favorite post-breakup food of a pop culture-fed generation. But this sweet treat isn’t just in the pantheon of pampering foods. According to a study by Harris Interactive for Deliveroo in 2018, pizzas, burgers and pasta carbonara are the three favorite comfort foods of the French, who also admit to falling in love with chocolate, pastries and cheese when they are feeling sad or depressed. As if, to get back on your feet after a bit of a break, nothing is better than fat, salt and sugar. In moments like these, “we don’t think about what would be really good for us, our culinary instincts are not rational at all,” explains Victoire Loup, culinary journalist, consultant and author.
Who hasn’t devoured ham shells or Nutella sandwiches like an 8-year-old dreaming of better days? “There’s a notion of regression with comfort food that goes beyond what we eat,” she continues. It’s a question of textures, even of container: “eating from a bowl with a spoon can take us back to childhood and bring us the feeling of comfort we seek when everything goes wrong”, she explains. However, beyond the pleasure given by the first bites, these difficult-to-digest foods don’t have truly invigorating nutritional properties. Is comfort food just junk food in disguise? No, says Clémence Catz, co-author of “Comfort Food… Healthy and Organic” (Éditions Terre Vivante), who offers a plethora of (really) beneficial recipes in her book. Healthy dishes that hit the brain with textures worthy of the most decadent comfort food. To us sauces, creams, gratins, purees! And if they’re made with morale-boosting ingredients, that’s even better. We favor everything containing magnesium (a powerful natural anti-stress), tryptophan (which participates in the production of serotonin), omega-3 (which maintains nervous balance) and vitamin C (which tones the body). Follow the guide.
The (really) comforting shopping list
In order not to collapse in the event of a crisis, the chef and naturopath Angèle Ferreux-Maeght draws up a list of foods to always have at home.
CABBAGE This superfood is rich in chlorophyll, iron, vitamin C and folic acid, which help in the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone.
The recipe for comfort food? Black cabbage chips are prepared by massaging the leaves with a drizzle of olive oil, mustard, brewer’s yeast and soy sauce. Bake in the oven at 160°C for 20-30 minutes until you get crunchy and ultra-gluttonous leaves.
SMALL FAT FISH Their omega-3 content allows for better communication between neurons and greater nervous stability in times of stress or little anxiety.
The recipe for comfort food? We prepare creamy rillettes by mashing herring, mackerel or sardines with good raw butter and a little seaweed. We spread everything on a wholemeal sourdough bread.
OIL SEEDS Walnuts, hazelnuts or even pumpkin seeds contain vitamin B6 and magnesium, allies par excellence in the fight against depression.
The recipe for comfort food? Let’s make a homemade spreadable cream with three handfuls of IGP Piedmont hazelnuts. After having spread them on baking paper, bake at 200°C, until they are lightly toasted. They are then massaged into a cloth to remove the skin, then gently blended to obtain a creamy consistency. The dark chocolate is melted with a little vegetable milk. Mix with the hazelnuts.
DARK CHOCOLATE Magnesium, present in large quantities in dark chocolate, plays an important role in regulating the nervous system and has calming effects.
The recipe for comfort food? We fall in love with an enveloping hot chocolate by heating 1 liter of vegetable milk (rice or oatmeal), in which we melt half a wafer of dark chocolate once the heat has gone out. Mix then sprinkle everything with a pinch of cinnamon.
BUCKWHEAT SWEETS Rich in trace elements and mineral salts, buckwheat is an energizing food, very easy to consume in the form of pancakes, which can be purchased ready-made in organic shops.
The recipe for comfort food? Bring yesterday’s veggies back to life by warming them up in a pancake, then top with some hummus or avocado. In the sweet version, a simple drizzle of maple syrup in a preheated pancake will take you back to childhood.