Comfort foods are usually foods that have no place in a healthy diet. It is typically energy-dense food that is high in fat, sugar, or both. It isn’t conducive to slimmer waistlines, but it makes you feel good.
There’s nothing quite as consoling as comfort food when you’ve had a terrible day. For example, when you can’t win at online gaming sites, like Sbobet, you’re more likely to crave a creamy slab of chocolate than lettuce.
Why are these foods so comforting? The answer is complicated. In this post, we’ll explore these motives in more detail.
Pleasure Centers In The Brain
Foods that taste good act on the same parts in the brain as recreational drugs. When you eat foods high in sugar, these pleasure centers release serotonin, endorphins, and sometimes opiates. The neurotransmitters are all responsible for enhancing your mood, which is why you feel amazing taking a mouthful of comfort food.
The response is strong enough to say that sugar is as addictive as heroin—it isn’t psychoactive, but the way our brains react makes it as enjoyable. It’s easy to become addicted to that sugar rush, too. It’s why breaking the grip of sugar is sometimes as challenging as conquering a serious drug habit.
When we’re feeling happy, it’s effortless to make healthy choices. When we’re having a bad day, comfort food acts as a type of medication. Devouring your favorite meal or a takeaway from a cozy restaurant gives you an instant boost.
It’s not only the mood-enhancing effects that count here, though—it is also psychological. Comfort foods are often associated with family and better times.
Many people also feel guilty after eating these foods, a reaction that’s understandable because these meals are typically loaded with extra calories. The guilt factor detracts from the positive effect, which sometimes makes us hungrier as the cycle continues.
While we shouldn’t eat these meals all the time, it’s better to adopt a balanced approach. Denying yourself continually isn’t healthy—you’ll feel deprived and resentful, and bound to crave those foods even more.
It’s an unnecessary sacrifice—enjoying a cheeseburger won’t derail your healthy eating plan. Allow yourself a cheat meal or two every week and ditch the guilt. The approach allows you the maximum benefit from an occasional indulgence without perpetuating another binge you will regret.
We Need To Fit In
Our relationship with food is more complicated than you might realize. Comfort food’s attraction also lies in positive associations from memory or experience.
Perhaps, you associate certain meals with family or good times with friends. When you feel lonely, these foods give you a sense of security and belonging.
Scent ties in powerfully to our emotional memory, too. A whiff of your favorite food evokes vivid memories and emotions. It is particularly true for meals associated with rewards or fun. Does the smell of candy floss could you of a visit to the carnival as a child?
We generally remember positive smells. For example, you’ll actively try to forget the smell of a sewerage farm, but the aroma of a roast in the oven is heavenly and likely to remind you of special occasions in your childhood.
People seldom realize the impact of early experiences. For example, say that your parents bought you chocolate when you went to a store. It would not have seemed significant as you matured, but it might subconsciously inform your shopping behavior as an adult. Maybe you also buy a slab of chocolate each time you shop without thinking about it because it takes you back to a happier time.
Marketers take advantage of this nostalgia by ensuring that a full blast of aromas for meals cooking in the store. Realtors bake cookies to create an irresistible, homely scent in the houses they want to sell.
Scents can make us feel hungry or satiated. For example, the smell of vanilla could make you feel hungry, and the aroma of a green apple is likely to have the opposite effect.
We often use parties as an excuse to indulge in unhealthy food. Your birthday is the perfect excuse to have cake, and it is widely acceptable to overeat at Christmas.
Holidays are a joyful time, often entailing time spent with people you love. The pull of nostalgia, along with the need to fit in, make it easier to treat yourself.
If you’re craving these kinds of meals excessively, you might have a nutrient deficiency. Your brain might need a boost of serotonin, too. Sticking to a healthy eating plan will reduce these types of cravings, and you may want to explore some vitamin supplements with the advice of your doctor.
Lack of sleep creates a perfect storm for unhealthy cravings. Your body releases cortisol to help you stay awake when you’re tired. The cortisol interferes with the balance of the hunger hormones, called ghrelin and leptin.
Leptin is a hormone that suppresses the appetite, signaling the brain when you’re full. High levels of cortisol suppress this hormone, tricking your body into thinking it needs a snack. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite, so the two hormones work together to ensure that you eat enough. Any imbalance makes you feel hungrier.
Your brain also craves energy, and it tends to demand it as fast as possible. You’ll feel like consuming high-energy foods that are easy for your body to convert to fuel, and it becomes impossible to fight those cravings when you’re constantly tired.
Is All Comfort Food Bad?
No. Eating these meals every day won’t do you any favors, though.
We can’t pretend that the high calorific content doesn’t matter. Focusing only on these kinds of meals means you miss out on vital nutrients and risk long-term damage to your body and mind.
Eating a variety of foods makes it easier for you to stay healthy and functioning at peak performance. Incorporating the meals that you love occasionally gives you the hit that you need without compromising on your longevity or putting your organs at risk.
Our relationship with comfort food is a complicated interaction of great taste, biological imperative, and emotional attachment. It’s healthy to enjoy it, but feeling guilty after eating imparts an unnecessary dampener on the experience.
It’s better to incorporate some comfort food to ease your cravings occasionally, but follow a healthy eating plan for the rest of the time.