6 Comfort Foods That Are Better for You Than You Might Think

6 Comfort Foods That Are Better for You Than You Might Think

The foods you crave and love to prepare have surprising health benefits!

By: Maressa Brown

Comfort food is as much a part of autumn as pumpkins and falling leaves. Especially this time of year, you may find yourself craving a food you can’t help but associate with the chillier weather. And while we tend to think of comfort food as full of unwanted calories, the good news is that many of our favorites are actually healthier than we might think. Check out the surprising benefits in these seven delicious comfort foods.

1. Hot cocoa: A cup of cocoa, especially made from unsweetened cocoa powder and a little bit of a natural sweetener, doesn’t have to be the sugar bomb you typically get in a cafe. What’s more, a recent analysis of 21 studies shows cocoa consumption is associated with decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improvement in cholesterol levels, among other benefits. This is all thanks to the polyphenolic flavonoids (antioxidants) in cocoa.

2. Pumpkin pie: Fall holidays wouldn’t be the same without this favorite fall dessert. And while we don’t tend to think of dessert as health food, pumpkin pie is actually a significant source of water-soluble B vitamins. You’ll get 20 percent of the recommended daily intake of thiamin and vitamin B12, 13 percent of riboflavin, 12 percent of folate, and 9 percent of niacin per average slice! B vitamins are known to bolster skin, vision, and neurological health, red blood cell formation, and maintenance of appetite, digestion, and metabolism. (But smaller portions are best when it comes to pumpkin pie, which can be high in calories, fat, and sugar.) Plus, thanks to beta-carotene, pumpkin may also help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

3. Chili: When the temperatures drop, nothing says warm and cozy like a big pot of chili. In fact, for many families, it’s a go-to fall and winter dinner. Depending on how you cook it, it can also be full of satiating protein and fiber. And there’s even more reason to use actual chili powder to season it: Chili can curb blood levels of insulin by 24 percent when it is regularly incorporated into meals, lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes.

4. Peanut butter: As long as you don’t have to worry about an allergy, this spread is actually incredibly nutritious, as it’s packed with the antioxidant vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and B6. It can also help you stay fuller longer, thanks to its combo of fiber (2 grams per serving) and protein (8 grams per serving). The best way to eat it is without sweetener or added oils, and enjoying no more than 2 tablespoons.


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5. Pizza: Some nights, the easiest thing to do for dinner is call the pizza delivery guy or throw a frozen pie in the oven. And of course, we crave it all the time, too. Thankfully, you can build a healthy pie with lots of vitamin-rich veggies and tomato sauce that is packed with the antioxidant lycopene. In fact, a study done at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan found that people who ate pizza at least once a week had a lower chance of developing mouth, esophagus, throat, or colon cancer!

6. Ice cream: If it’s the sweet, cold stuff you crave, even in the cooler months (hey, pie a la mode!), here’s the good news: A study published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate at least one daily serving of full-fat dairy products, such as ice cream, gained less weight than those who didn’t. The caveat, of course, is that you need to eat it in moderation. (A half-cup serving is recommended.)

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/Dombili

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