Have you ever had a rough day or were feeling lonely and grabbed your favorite cookies, chocolate, or ice cream? That is what is comfort food. It’s like a warm, soft blanket on a freezing winter night. Let’s break into the psychology behind what is comfort food, why it is called comfort food, and your favorite comfort food.
1. What is Comfort Food?
People do share very close relationships with food. The notion of comfort food has developed through time to the point that it is now practically whatever makes you feel happy, nostalgic, or just whatever you enjoy eating.
To begin with, what is comfort food? It may be anything, but the fundamental factor that characterizes comfort food is that it makes you feel good. Comfort food is typically a high-carb, high-sugar, or high-fatty-acid meal, such as french fries, cheeseburgers, ice cream, candy, and chocolate.
Because of their high fatty acid content, even foods that are objectively healthy, such as salmon, tuna, and almonds, can be comfort foods. According to studies, fatty acid emulsion directly impacts the same section of the brain that deals with moods and emotions, which explains why comfort food is so comfortable and how it does alter your mood.
2. Why is Comfort Food called Comfort Food?
The term “comfort food” has only been used since the late ’60s. It wasn’t until 1977 that The Washington Post referred to one of its featured holiday dishes as comfort food.
While the phrase hasn’t been around for very long, comfort food was not developed with it. It’s a feeling we’ve all had, whether from a meal your grandparent used to make you happy on your visit or a take-out burger your father used to take you to. Eating what you grew up eating might be comfortable, perhaps a special meal your parents or grandparents would cook you as a child.
3. What Makes Comfort Food so Appealing?
Foods loaded with carbs, sugar, and fatty acids activate the brain’s reward system, which is why they comfort you. The same rewards and pleasure areas triggered by drug or alcohol addiction are activated while devouring comfort food. While you may attribute it to stress or simply being in the mood for a certain cuisine, there are other reasons why you may be desiring these harmful foods more frequently than you’d like.
The hippocampus, insula, and caudate are the brain regions responsible for your mood. According to research, these three regions are active during food yearning episodes.
These regions deal with the brain’s memory, reward, and pleasure processes. While you may not have as much control over your food cravings as you would want, certain food cravings can be alleviated by diet modification. Making sure you’re receiving enough nutritious carbohydrates, sweets, and fats will significantly affect how frequently these cravings occur.
4. What Constitutes Comfort Food?
A vast variety of foods can be classified as comfort food. However, they often fall into three categories:
- Physical comfort foods are excellent for your body and mind, taste nice, and make you happy.
- Nostalgic comfort foods evoke recollections of childhood, loved ones, hometowns, or other joyful times. Signature dishes from mom or grandparents undoubtedly fall under this category.
- So-called “guilty pleasures” are heavy, decadent meals that you like for their great flavor but make you feel terrible about eating them.
As you can see, comfort food is not limited to a single dish. Rather, it is a cuisine that, when eaten, transports us to a secure place. It doesn’t even have to be a meal we used to like as kids; a comfort food may be as long as it has a specific spice we prefer or is cooked by someone we admire.
To summarise, comfort food is a joy inside the tradition. Sweets, such as chocolate, may be preferred by one individual, while savory or sour items, such as mozzarella sticks, may be preferred by another. Each person’s comfort food is defined by their culture, eating habits, and prior experiences. What is comfort food for you depends on you.
5. Does Comfort Food Offer Emotional Comfort?
Naturally, it does! Dopamine is triggered by comfort food, and dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes many things joyful. When we expect a reward, our brain produces this molecule, so smelling or seeing those scrumptious fried chicken or a delicious soup makes us happy.
5.1) The Aspect of Physical Comfort
Eating these foods activates our brain’s reward system, causing it to release chemicals that make us happy. According to several research, when you consume your comfort foods, your body releases feel-good chemicals such as dopamine. That’s why comfort food cravings are more common when feeling sad.
We’ve all had a tub of ice cream after a breakup, haven’t we? So it all makes sense why we want to bury ourselves in a pile of junk food after a long day of work.
5.2) The Aspect of Emotional Comfort
This is especially true of childhood favorites or meals shared with loved ones. There are delicacies that your parents and grandparents prepare that will bring back all of your childhood memories. We frequently equate comfort food with pleasant memories and relationships.
Consider your favorite comfort foods—they are almost always connected with a pleasant memory or mood. What is comfort food does not necessarily have to be viewed negatively. Everything in moderation is OK.
6. What are Some of the Famous Comfort Foods?
What is comfort food for you is highly subjective to you. Cuisine varies according to country and area. However, many components or preparation methods remain the same for comfort food: deep-fried foods, spaghetti, cheese, some form of meat, pastries, and sweet, indulgent desserts. All these are warming elements meant to warm the heart and the body, producing feelings of comfort and security. After all, it is the essence of comfort food.
Here are some of the popular comfort food:
6.1. Chicken Soup
Who hasn’t eaten a steamy cup of chicken soup after a weekend of gin and tonics? This incredibly healthy grandma’s traditional dish has spread worldwide for a good cause since it contains many nutrients. Chicken soup is an ideal dish to enjoy on wet and cold days, to treat illness symptoms, and even to mend broken hearts. Even quick chicken soup might elicit that comfort food “sigh.”
Learn how to make chicken soup.
6.2. Instant Noodles
Whatever the health risks, nothing beats instant noodles on a rainy evening or after a long, tiring day.
Learn how to make instant noodles.
6.3. Mashed Potatoes
This simple-to-make and mouth-watering delicacy is always a treat for the taste senses. Its simple preparation makes it a favorite comfort dish for many people. The soft potato with the perfect combination of cream is a mood-winner.
Learn how to make basic mashed potatoes.
6.4. Stewed Meat
Nostalgic foods? Stewed meat to your rescue. This is probably one of your favorite childhood dishes. On a bad day, the fork-tender ground beef and nourishing vegetables in a shallow handful of gravy strike the spot and provide much-needed consolation.
6.5. French Fries
Well, as unhealthy as it may be, it has the magic potion that can cure your crappy mood swings with just a bite into the perfectly fried and salted fries.
This is one of my favorite foods. Also known as Italians’ most popular comfort food item. The cheese sauce, pasta, and bread are just the good food you need for the day.
Learn how to make budget friendly pasta.
People belonging to India are mostly rice eaters. Thus, rice is widely recognized as a comfort food item in India. The traditional style is steamed rice served with a hot vegetable curry and salad. This home cooking fills you with positive emotions and the energy to get things done.
Learn how to 10 Ways to Liven Up Plain Steamed Rice
6.8. Chicken Pot Pie
The United Kingdom and Australia have savory pies, whereas Latin America and Italy have empanadas and calzones, respectively. They’ve got chicken pot pie, a comfort food classic that bakes stewed meat and veggies beneath drop biscuits, phyllo dough, or buttery pie crust.
Here are some chicken pot pie recipes to try out.
6.9. Fried Chicken
If a teenager is asked what is comfort food, they’ll prolly tell you fried chicken as their answer. Of course, hamburgers and pizza compete as well. But fried chicken aces the battle.
6.10. Ice Cream
How can someone miss out on ice cream? The flavor might be subject to choice, but ice cream is a portion of all-time comfort food for people of various ages. Be it bad marks or a terrible breakup; ice cream is all that heart wants.
7. Is it Good to Depend on Comfort Foods?
This depends on what is comfort food for you. If your idea of comfort food is a bowl of crunchy vegetables, then the answer is emphatical yes! But it’s impossible if your comfort meal is fried chicken.
Here’s comes the way you should choose. As always said, Balance is the key. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is one of the simplest methods to keep cravings at bay. Cravings will be less frequent if you consume enough healthy fats, carbohydrates, and sweets. One of the primary reasons people experience cravings is a lack of key nutrients in their daily diet. If you eat healthy most of the time, something sweet will be an even greater reward!
8. When do You Crave Comfort Food?
As previously said, you usually seek comfort foods when you aren’t feeling well or cheery. Comfort foods make you feel good because they release dopamine.
8.1) Is that to Say You Shouldn’t Give in to Your Cravings?
Whatever your situation, comfort food isn’t always a terrible thing in moderation. It’s also beneficial to discover alternative ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, exercise, or additional self-care.
We all need a respite from the chaos of life from time to time. We may believe that a cheat meal would make us feel better, but sometimes all you need is some quality alone time. Consider setting aside a few hours each week for yourself. The moral of the tale is to make sure you’re getting enough time to yourself to aid with stress management, and you could notice that your desires for comfort foods start to fade.
8.2) What are the Benefits of Eating a Balanced Meal?
Healthy nutrition boosts energy, enhances your body’s operations, fortifies your immune system, and keeps you from gaining weight. Other significant advantages include:
- It meets your dietary requirements. A diversified, well-balanced diet will give you the necessary nutrients to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
- Certain illnesses can be prevented and treated.
- A healthy diet can lower the chance of getting diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It is also beneficial in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Following a customized diet can help you manage an illness or condition by reducing symptoms.
- Feel energized and in control of your weight. A nutritious diet will make you feel better, give you more energy, and help you combat stress.
- Many social and cultural activities revolve around food. Aside from nourishment, it aids in the formation of interpersonal bonds.
9. What Does Your Craving Mean?
A craving might indicate something is out of balance, but it does not always imply that you want a certain food. A yearning might indicate that you are thirsty, anxious, or sleep-deprived.
If you urge a nibble and eat it but don’t feel any better, your body never needs that meal in the first place. Here are some of the reasons you could be desiring a particular dish.
9.1) Sweet Cravings
Do you have a sudden craving for something sweet and creamy? While a chocolate bar contains sugar and fat, dark chocolate does have some nutritional advantages.
If you’re anemic or iron deficient, you could want chocolate. Chocolate contains a modest amount of iron, yet your body absorbs it easily.
Instead, simply snacking on some fresh fruits would fulfill your sweet tooth.
9.2) Salty Cravings
When you crave a salty snack, you might be dehydrated. Gulp a huge sip of water before reaching out for a salty snack. When we think we’re hungry, we’re often simply thirsty.
According to several research, persons who use diuretics, which are treatments that lose salts, often want salt and need it. Only some diuretic drugs cause this, so consult your doctor if you believe this is the case for you.
You might also be stressed. Salty snacks, such as potato chips or pretzels, are frequent stress-eating foods. Eating something salty will not help you feel better if you are stressed. Breathing exercises, a short stroll, or yoga might be more beneficial.
9.3) The Carbohydrates Cravings
Carbohydrates such as spaghetti, biscuits, and bread provide fast energy but do not keep you full for long. Consider your sleep cycle if you desire high-fat, high-carb meals. Your body may request fats and carbohydrates since they produce some hormones that influence your sleep. A full night of rest might help reduce some harmful cravings.
9.4) What to do if You Have a Craving?
Before you take a big chunk of your favorite comfort meal, ask yourself if you’re hungry or simply bored and thirsty.
However, if you have strange desires, don’t always give in. If you notice your body requesting something you don’t require, take five minutes to do something different. Take a short stroll or speak with a buddy. Cravings do pass – they truly do. You can be looking for stress reduction or a fast remedy for boredom.
If you feel the same or worse after satisfying your appetite, it’s not the meal you need. You most likely require stress alleviation, relaxation, or hydration.
Sometimes a home-cooked dinner is all required to feel better about the stresses and difficulties of everyday life, and other times you need to treat yourself to a little chocolate. In any case, your urges are quite natural.
Remember to keep everything in proportion and that a well-balanced diet will help you keep those cravings under control. Comfort foods are wonderful for obvious reasons, so don’t feel awful or guilty about indulging every now and again!
If you’re feeling sad one day, just wear your most comfortable clothing, switch on your favorite music, and eat a wonderful fried chicken, a creamy cheesecake, a sizzling pizza, or any other cuisine that warms your spirit. Even if it involves more carbohydrates, a great lunch might often be the best treatment for a terrible day.
Comfort foods may make you feel better after a rough day or just satisfy your taste senses. Comfort food always means the same thing, no matter where you live or come from: peace.
What is Comfort food for you that’s your choice. But make sure always to eat and drink enough water. Food does not only provide energy to get through the day, but it also is the key source for your body to derive nutrients, balance the electrolytes of your body and give you a healthy life. So make sure to indulge in your comfort food once in a while to get the happiness glow while balancing out by taking care of yourself, your body, and your mind. Afterall as the old saying goes by, “Health is Wealth.”
Anoushka is an accomplished finance student who has a love for writing in a variety of genres. She adds her own viewpoint and perceptive analysis to every piece of content she produces, whether it’s diving into the complex world of banking, experiencing the glitter and glamour of entertainment, savouring the flavours of cuisine, or setting off on thrilling travel excursions. Anoushka has a voracious desire for information and finds consolation in books, which help her to broaden her horizons and foster her creativity. She is an engaging writer who can captivate readers with any topic due to her wide range of interests and passion for narrative.