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Why Do We Crave Comfort Food?

We all know the saying “comfort food” but why is it comforting? What is it about comfort food that we crave? But more importantly, if we are going to eat food for comfort, how can we make sure we are eating responsibly but still finding joy and comfort in food?

What is comfort food?

We all have that particular food that we turn to when we need a little pick me up. But comfort food traditionally gets a bad wrap. This is because it is typically energy-dense, high fat and sweetened foods. 

Why do we crave comfort food?

There are a variety of reasons why we crave a particular food. Eating comfort foods activates our brain’s reward system. Our body and brain receives positive reinforcement by obtaining physical sustenance along with tasty flavours. Typically, what makes food comforting isn’t the calories, but the fact that the foods we turn to remind us of our connections to family and friends or fond memories. For many of us, we crave a food that connects us to an emotional memory, (the smell of a roast dinner reminds of us of childhood meals at Grandma’s place).

“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance that you will be drawn to that food,” says Shira Gabriel, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo.

Don’t stop eating comfort food.

Craving food is part of our biology; it gives us an incentive to eat, and survive. And the idea of “comfort food” has been around for a long time. Research now shows that comfort food actually can, and does, make us feel better.

“The idea of separating food from our emotional experience is something that’s very tough to do,” Dr. Jordan Troisi, an associate professor of psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South, said. “This relationship has been in place for a very long time in human’s evolutionary history.”

“Our research shows that if people feel rejected, if they are having a bad day, or thinking about times when people treated them poorly, and they're able to eat their favorite foods, that that activates thoughts of connection and comfort, and for many people, for most people, it makes them feel better,” Dr. Gabriel says.

Making Healthy Decisions

Like most good things in life, the key here is moderation. Do not deprive your body of something it craves. But eat any comfort food that is high in fat, sugar or salt in sensible and moderate quantities. Rather than sitting down to eat an entire bowl of ice cream, try adding one scoop of ice cream to a bowl of your favourite fruit. You will get the sweetness from the fruit as well as the ice cream.  Find healthy substitutes and of course, try to fill up on healthy foods first, so you only have a small amount of room left for the more “indulgent” foods if they are not as good for you.

Find Joy in your Favourite Foods

Comfort food and finding joy in your meals doesn’t have to be chocolate, ice cream and hot chips. At Good Meal Co, we have made it our family business to bring back the joy of food for people with a disability and their carers. Our range of tasty breakfasts, lunches and dinners include all of those traditional family favourites that ignite happiness and have been created to be enjoyed. Create new memories and find comfort in our meals that are delivered to your doorstep.

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