Can Indulging be good for us?
Hedonism In The Name Of Health.
Indulging in rich, delicious foods gets a bad rap — is there a chance these comfort foods are actually good for us?
In our diet-obsessed culture, we see high fat, high sugar foods as the enemy to perfectly chiseled abs and right swipes on Bumble. We crave chocolate but fear its love handles producing effects. We salivate over pizza porn on Instagram, but deny ourselves the pleasure of having a slice when we’re in the mood. All in the name of “health.”
But, can indulging once in a while actually be beneficial for us? Can allowing yourself that slice of chocolate cake at a birthday celebration be part of a healthy relationship with food? As lovers of both cannabis and food, we really f*cking hope so.
What Makes A Food ‘Indulgent?’
Before we can defend our right to imbibe, we should probably lay out some definitions. What exactly makes a food “indulgent?” While there’s not a hard and fast definition, “the common traits are: food that is rich-tasting, appealing, comforting, eaten to satisfy cravings, and usually high in fat and calories,” says Mubashar Rehman, Ph.D., and medical writer at HealthCreeds.com.
But it’s not just about the food itself, says Dan Fenyvesi, M.S., R.D., and author of Food Sobriety. “Indulgence comes from a break from the ordinary,” as well as the amount you’re consuming and how often you consume it.
In other words, if you’re eating a giant tub of ice cream every day, that ice cream doesn’t really classify as indulging anymore; it’s commonplace in your diet. What’s so special about something you have every day?
What Are the Benefits of Indulging?
What a question! Let’s take a minute to explore that…
Pleasure and Comfort
“Eating indulgent food produces pleasure for people,” says Dr. Rehman. “For some people, it even reduces stress or simply puts them in a good mood,” he continues.
Studies show that eating indulgent foods like high fat and high sugar desserts release dopamine, the happy hormone. It’s worth mentioning that this dopamine spike is what can lead to addiction, eating disorders, or food issues. But we’re just going to completely ignore that.
Even those of us who are super into health, fitness, weight loss, and clean eating have cravings. If you never crave some fried chicken, congratulations, you have reached your final robotic form. But for the rest of us heathens, it’s beneficial to honor your cravings by allowing yourself room to enjoy your favorite foods.
In fact, studies show that dieters who restrict their favorite foods can often fail at their weight loss goals, resulting in over-consumption of those foods later. So eat that damn brownie, Jessica.
Indulgent foods aren’t just caloric air. All foods (with the exception of like, sodas, maybe), have nutrients that can be physically beneficial for our bodies. Cheeseburgers contain protein. Ice cream has calcium. You get it.
That being said, it is still true that certain indulgent foods are more nutrient-dense than others, like chocolate, for example. Research shows that cocoa and dark chocolate contain antioxidant properties, may produce cardiovascular benefits, and can even improve mood.
So while I won’t be eating a pound of dark chocolate, the next time I consume a portion of it I’m going to think, “yay, I’m deoxidizing.” That’s just science.
Food isn’t just fuel. Food is a gateway to culture, a way to explore a new country, and used in celebrations. It’s a way to honor traditions, and there to foster social connection and community. Engaging in these food-centered experiences is part of the joy of living.
“Regarding the benefit: food is a way to bond with friends, experience joy, and mark religious holidays and special occasions,” says Fenyvesi. “These experiences are marked by indulgence,” and we shouldn’t take them for granted!