Couple eating a sandwich in the park

Chasing the Blues Away: The Science Behind Comfort Food

There’s no doubt about it that when stressed out or feeling down, people tend to reach for their comfort food. It’s one of those things proving that people’s relationship with food isn’t just physical, but emotional, too. But what exactly makes people crave comfort food? Here’s what science says:

It makes you feel good

It’s simple: Comfort food brings pleasure. Chocolates, ice cream, french fries, and almost all the other food you eat when you’re feeling down are high in fat, sugar, or salt — ingredients that activate the brain’s reward system. This explains why there’s a boost in the mood after eating. That’s why from time to time, it’s good to drop by an ice cream store or grab some frozen yogurt to shake off the stress.

Of course, it’s important to exercise moderation. Spikes in the mood are good, but spikes in the weighing scale aren’t. A half cup of ice cream should be enough. Do consider a coconut ice cream, as this can help you lose weight, according to studies. Drop by at ice cream shops that Australia is famous for and check out the different flavors they have to get that mood boost fix.

It prompts a feeling of security

Man eating in front of a refrigeratorIf you think about it, most of the food you crave when you’re feeling down tend to be the very food family members would always prepare for you, like your mom’s homemade cookies or your spouse’s pasta dish. This is because of a thing called memories of secure attachment.

When you’re feeling the blues, you long for a sense of security, which often gets activated when you eat the food you’d always eat when you’re at the comfort of your home or in the company of your loved ones. Comfort food then doesn’t just have a physical or emotional ingredient; it has a social component to it as well. If you’ve been away from home for a while, you may want to get that cookie recipe your mom makes, just in case you feel the blues along the way.

It gives you nostalgia

As much as it’s saddening, people love the exercise of being nostalgic because they’re able to revisit the good old times. In matters of nostalgia, food successfully brings out memories. The link is in the smell. According to experts, scents can prompt detailed remembrance.

For example, the smell of a grilled steak may remind a person of barbecue parties at their backyard during the summer. Or, the scent of cookies can take someone back to lazy no-school weekends at their mother’s kitchen. As the memories prompted by smell are almost always positive, you long for food that has those scents to comfort you when you’re feeling down.

It’s an undeniable fact that food isn’t just a source of sustenance — it’s also a source of happiness, encouragement, and comfort. When you’re feeling the blues or the tension creeping up on you, indulge yourself in your guilty pleasure food. Just remember the mantra: Everything in moderation.