Health & Wellness

Nutritionally Speaking: Comfort food can be an important part of health at this time

Photo by Bradley Cook/Flashbox Studio

As I spend more time at home practicing social distancing, I’m grateful for the many comforts I enjoy: sitting in a favorite chair, listening to music, reading … of course, almost always with a kitty on my lap. I am also enjoying a few of my favorite comfort foods, and a relatively new one is biscuits and gravy. For some reason I did not grow up in the NYC suburbs enjoying this combination. … We had others, of course, NY pizza, a toasted bagel with a “schmear” (a healthy dollop of cream cheese).

While this is one of the house specialties at Blue Valley Bistro, like many of you I am resolved for now to do more DIY comfort foods at home. My biscuit recipe comes from my friends at and is a great option for those looking for a grain-free treat and includes almond flour … a healthy snack in any form – flour, nuts or nut butter.

Almonds are a common snack, and contain a rich array of nutrients with many health benefits. An ounce of almonds has many of the nutrients we need each day, including 6 grams of protein and carbs, 14 grams of fat, vitamins E and B2, copper, magnesium and manganese. Almonds and almond flour are great choices for folks on a gluten-free or grain-free diet. Almond flour has been a great addition to our baked goods, and we get a moist flavorful result. Almonds support our health in many ways.

Another benefit of the “stay home/stay healthy” approach is that I’m seeing social media pages of folks starting a hobby, do-it-yourself videos for mask-making … and a lot foodie stuff, especially baking. I have a great-niece in New Jersey who will turn five this summer who considers herself an expert baker. 

I’m not much of a sweets eater these days, but I do have a birthday coming up soon and have been dropping hints that I would enjoy a birthday cake. One of our household favorites is carrot cake.

The great thing about carrot cake is that it can actually be healthy to eat. You are probably thinking that I am just trying to justify eating something sweet, so let’s look at the ingredients and their health benefits.

Orange-colored foods are rich in carotenoids, which are important antioxidants. Antioxidants are the important nutrients in our foods that protect us from premature aging and illness. Some of the carotenoids in our diet will be converted in our liver to Vitamin A, which supports vision and can boost our immune systems. Recent studies say that the Vitamin A we produce when we eat carrots is also beneficial to our lungs, especially for those exposed to cigarette smoke. 

Because a growing number of people are gluten-sensitive, the choices of gluten-free flour mixes are easy to find and work very well in place of the whole wheat flour. 

Eggs are one of our highest-quality protein sources. Eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids as long as the chickens have been allowed to be free range. Omega-3 fats are also found in cold water fish such as salmon and sardines, and in grass-fed beef. Omega-3 fats support our bodies’ healthy response to inflammation. Eggs are also a great source of the carotenoids lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health, and protect the macula region of our retina, a natural sunblock for your eyes. 

Most recipes for carrot cake include the spice cinnamon. Use fresh cinnamon powder, which studies show can have a balancing effect on our blood-sugar levels. Cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and a source of concentrated calcium and manganese.

Including raisins in a recipe reduces the need for adding as much sweetener. Raisins contain flavonoids, such as resveratrol which help protect our health and are a great addition to hot cereals or desserts. 

No carrot cake would be complete without a cream cheese frosting. I have seen recipes that include mineral-rich maple syrup as a sweetener in their frosting. The fat in the cream cheese makes the carotenoids in the carrots more available to support our health. Cream cheese has less lactose or milk sugar, and may be better tolerated than milk by those people that are lactose intolerant. 

I cannot write about carrot cake ingredients without mentioning the many health benefits of coconut oil used in cooking or baking. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are a great source of energy and not fattening. This healthy oil also contains virus fighting lauric acids. Always choose organic virgin coconut oil, which is easily found in most grocery stores. Palm shortening from sustainable sources is a great alternative as well. 

As you can see it is possible to have a great tasting dessert such as carrot cake, and enjoy the health benefits of the ingredients. I suggest eating sweets in moderation, drinking plenty of pure water, getting sufficient sleep, exercise, and — as your mother always told you — eat your vegetables!


Contact Yaakov Levine, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, at [email protected].



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos