Katheryn Foxx

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Comfort foods that could be adding to your stress and what to have instead.

Lots of us reach for comfort foods when we need a pick-me-up, but it turns out a lot of those classic American eats can actually increase the inflammation that leads to chronic disease, according to senior dietitian Sue Ryskamp. And that inflammation can also mess with our hormones.

The foods to watch out for are the ones high in saturated fat and simple carbs, which can cause overproduction of two hormones: eicosanoids and insulin. Having high levels of those can cause the body to make more cortisol – a stress hormone – which Ryskamp says can lead to further inflammation.

But this doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite comfort foods, just follow Ryskamp’s tips for making them a little healthier:

Macaroni and cheese - When you indulge your inner little kid with it, just have a small portion along with a side of kale salad. The veggies have thousands of phytonutrients - plant hormones - that help balance hormones in the body, Ryskamp explains.

Soda - With soda, it’s the high-fructose corn syrup that can affect our insulin levels even more than regular sugar, registered dietitian Liz Weinandy says. So swap the soda for sparkling water with a little fruit juice or fresh fruit chunks added to it.

Hotdogs - Processed meats like these can contribute to inflammation and that can create a hormonal imbalance. So save your hot dogs for a treat at the ballpark and Ryskamp suggests trying to find an organic one or one made from grass-fed beef.

Candy - We know sugar - even “healthier” ones like agave and honey - can add to inflammation. But they can also mess with our hunger hormones, especially insulin. So really try to keep the sweet treats to a minimum, as tough as that is.

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