Updated: Dec 18, 2019
My favorite comfort food is mac and cheese, my mom makes the best in the world, well at least in my world.
Do you have that special food or meal that feels so much more than just food? There’s no shame in it, we all have at least that one meal or food which is put above the rest, that we associate with past experiences, memories, or even a close family member. In my case my mom.
Yes, it turns out food may be more than just nutritive; often it has the ability to affect our emotional and psychological wellbeing, and the power to change our mood. This phenomenon explains food and sugar addiction, binge eating disorder and the inability to control what we eat.
Can you relate to that special food that brings you comfort? Well thank goodness science may have found the reasons why.
1. Most Comfort Food are Fat And Carbohydrate Based
Yes, it is likely your favorite comfort food is nowhere near healthy, like mine and is high in fat or carb/sugar levels. While it may seem unplanned on the surface, there is much more going on beneath the surface. For one, carbs are able to boost our serotonin levels, which belong to a group of neurochemicals known as Endorphins.
These endorphins elevate our mood and sense of well-being, but only for a very short time. If you find yourself wanting another quick fix in your comfort food of choice (cookies, cake, mac & cheese ) these feel good chemicals may be the reason.
Fat on the other hand, acts a little more unpredictably. In studies, it was found that subjects who viewed sad movies, or listened to sad music were unaffected or demonstrated reduced negative emotions when consuming foods high in saturated fats. This could explain the reason many poor eating habits start while one is depressed and spiral out of control.
2.Can Be A Companion
Sometimes people go to their comfort food of choice when experiencing feelings of depression of loneliness. This comes as no surprise, since for millennia people all over the world have bonded over food; formed alliances, developed romantic feelings. I remember growing up my mom cooked Sunday dinner and my whole family would attend. We would have mac & cheese at least 3 times a month. Sunday dinner helped create the bond I have with my family today.
Women and men may desire different foods as companions, however, as men typically desire solid meals while women prefer snacking. Comfort food may be seen as soothing, or bringing a sense of peace, and is one of the social reasons why we crave them so much in hard times.
3.Linked To Your Emotions
Do you have a food or meal that your mom or grandma used to make when you were a kid? She may have personally taught you the recipe, and you make it when missing her or seeking to be close to her. That food or meal is probably filled with good nostalgic emotions, like in my case it was going to my mom’s house every weekend and having an old time with my family.
4. Sunless & Cold Winter
The cravings for comfort food seem to get worse as winter draws near, as some people develop symptoms of a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). UV light hours have a positive relationship with one’s overall mood, and could explain why many “bulk up” during the winter months.
If your comfort food is causing you to gain too much weight, try to get as much sunlight as possible during the shortened day hours, and supplement with mood boosting nutrients. You could also try modifying the recipe to eliminate fat and carbs. Check our repipe section for alternatives to one of your comfort foods.
At the end of the day, comfort food binging occurs when we’re lonely or depressed. A good fix for that? Go out with friends. Your mood will improve, and you don’t have to sit meaninglessly eating your life away Comfort food is just that- finding comfort in food. It is not a very good tool to fix loneliness, depression or other negative emotions.