Comfort foods can be defined as food that has been cooked simply and brings a sense of contentment to the one who eats it. It can also be defined as any food that a person can associate with home or his childhood. Comfort foods are also those foods that are commonly eaten when a person is under emotional stress.
Common Comfort Foods
The most common comfort foods often contain a high amount of sugar or carbohydrate and fat. According to a Cynthia Sangerman and Brian Wansink, foods that are most commonly reported as comfort foods include cookies, potato chips and ice cream. Another report showed that women prefer comfort foods that are sweet, like chocolate. Women also often eat snack foods as comfort foods. Men, on the other hand, prefer entire meals as comfort food. Young people prefer snack foods and sweets, just as women do, while old people like hot foods as comfort food.
Common comfort foods include apple pie, banana pudding, pot roast, chicken soup, fried chicken, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, pumpkin pie, spaghetti and beef stew.
What is in a Comfort Food?
Food scientist researchers speculate that there is a connection between the person’s psychological aspects (moods) and eating particular foods. One conclusion that has been drawn is that foods that have high carbohydrate content increases tryptophan’s availability. Tryptophan increases the amount of serotonin in the brain, which then results in improving the person’s mood.
Another possible explanation for why certain foods provide comfort is that good-tasting foods contribute to the system releasing opioids, which alter a person’s mood. Another explanation offered by researchers is that this is a result of a person’s feelings of nostalgia. A person feels comfort whenever they prepare and eat food that is familiar to them, is indulgent, and provides a sense of emotional and physical comfort.
Overindulgence in Comfort Foods
There are cases when a person eats too much of what they consider comfort food, especially when they want to be distracted from dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Although comfort foods certainly help a lot in improving one’s moods, it is also not advised to indulge in these foods too often. Because a majority of these comfort foods contain a high amount of fat and sodium, overindulgence in these foods can lead to the development of heart disease and other types of illnesses. Also, most comfort foods have high carbohydrate content and so overindulging, combined with little physical activity, or having a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to weight gain or obesity.