I get a daily email from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, of which I am a member (hooray for student discounts, am I right??), chock full of cool articles, interesting studies, and bizarre findings having to do with nutrition, both from clinical journals and from more public-friendly sources, like ABC News. One of them that really tickled my fancy this week was called “Kids Not Eating Vegetables? Is It The Texture?” 1.
I immediately clicked on the link because I am frequently guilty of describing myself this way:
“I eat like a two-year-old.”
It’s true. I totally do. I don’t like my foods to touch each other on my plate. After all, who wants gross broccoli juice on their mashed potatoes? I also only like to eat one thing at a time – I damn well finish all of that broccoli before I move on to the chicken, and every bite of chicken is gone before I eat the mashed potatoes, and only then do I start my salad (there is an order to this madness, I swear). And I also won’t eat certain foods because I don’t like the way they feel in my mouth – or, in grown-up words, I don’t like the texture. A prime example of this is that I adore raw carrots and will happily munch on them like Bugs Bunny, but cooked carrots make me gag. I seriously cannot eat them. It’s something about the mushy texture and the heat.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow, Emily, food OCD much?” And perhaps you would be right. Like I said before, I freely admit that I eat like a two year old. When you combine this with my biologically enforced need to eat gluten free, you can see how I’m quite an entertaining dinner companion. A little like this:
But this is why the title of this particular article made me immediately click the link. It was totally in my wheelhouse, is what I’m saying. And the article is absolutely excellent – if you, too, are a picky eater, especially of vegetables, definitely click over and read it. The author, Cara Rosenbloom, is a registered dietitian, and she categorizes veggies by texture and by cooking technique to achieve the desired texture, so it’s extremely helpful. I like my veggies either crunchy or mashed, so I’m looking forward to trying sliced jicama and kohlrabi in addition to my usual carrots, celery, and cucumber, and different kinds of mashed squashes and cauliflower!
Aside from all that, however, reading this article got me thinking on a slightly more meta-level. One of the health issues I have is migraines. And I’ve known for a while that when I have a migraine, I crave certain foods. I don’t know if this is a hormonal thing or a neurological thing or what, but there are definitely specific “migraine foods” that make me feel worlds better.
One of these is drinking Coke, and the other is eating french fries from Wendy’s with a frosty. Not the healthiest things in the world, but they work. I’ve also found myself craving pizza, Chipotle, and mac’n’cheese, but the first two are the ones I crave almost every time.
What’s interesting to me in the context of Rosenbloom’s article is that these foods meet very specific texture needs. Part of the Coke thing is the caffeine, which is actually proven to help migraines (2, 3). But, when I tried switching to coffee instead of Coke, since coffee has substantially less sugar, and actually has more caffeine, it did not work at all.
Don’t get me wrong – coffee gets me going in the morning, and I will choose it over soda any normal day of the week. But when I have a migraine? Nope, gotta have the Coke.
I think it has to do with the carbonation and the sugar content. Somehow, working with the caffeine, it cancels out the migraine. I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely no scientific basis for this, but that’s what works for me. It’s as much about the texture of the beverage as I drink it as it is about the nutritional (or lack thereof) content.
Same goes for the fries/frosty combo. The hot, mushy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside, saltiness of the fries, combined with the cold, creamy, sweetness of the frosty just does something to my brain that makes everything feel better. The minute I start eating it. Healing comfort food at its finest.
Now, maybe it’s like a placebo effect, and I feel better when I eat/drink these things because I think they’re going to make me feel better. Maybe somehow the fat and sugar content are helping me neurologically, and I just haven’t learned about it yet. But I also know that when I have a migraine, my skin feels jumpy. I don’t want to wear certain clothes because the texture bothers my skin. The light has to be at a certain degree – not too bright, not too low – or my headache and the auras get worse. Sounds have to be at a certain timbre, too – deep bass makes me feel better (I listen to a lot of Pink and Icon for Hire when I have a migraine), almost like a deep brain massage, whereas the Broadway show tunes I normally love make me want to rip my hair out. It’s like every part of me is highly sensitized. Makes sense that the same would go for my palate, right?
So I think there’s something there. Parents of kids I’ve known on the autism spectrum have also told me that their kids react very strongly to certain textures, colors, tastes, etc. of food. I find this whole mental connection to our food really interesting, and am really glad that I read Rosenbloom’s article. I still am not 100% sure why these foods make me feel better when I’m sick, but if I ever need to write a paper for a nutrition class, I think I’ve got a topic ready to go!
What is your experience with texture and food? Are you a picky eater like me? Do you have certain foods that soothe or irritate you solely based on texture?
1. Rosenbloom, C. (2014, November 06). Kids Not Eating Vegetables? Is It the Texture? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/November-2014/Kids-Not-Eating-Vegetables-Is-it-the-Texture/#.VGD0W_uEERc.facebook
2. Diseases & Conditions. (2011, December 11). Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Migraine_Headaches
3. Caffeine for migraine headaches. (2014). Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://migraine.com/migraine-treatment/natural-remedies/caffeine/