Comfort food works like magic.
Imagine this: You’re on your couch, sad and alone, after a long day in school (or work, we don’t discriminate here). You scored the lowest in history and you didn’t understand your math lesson because your Wi-Fi connection decided to make life more miserable by acting up.
There’s no one to hug because we’re all observing physical distancing, duh. And you don’t feel like talking to anyone either. You just sulk in one corner until your brain told you to eat something. And so you did.
Comfort food gives you comfort (wow, so surprising) and instant gratification on bad days and makes you feel good—at least temporarily. But how exactly does comfort food do that?
Ever heard of the brain’s reward system? It’s the part of your brain that boosts your mood whenever you receive pleasure. And in this context, food with high fat, sodium or sugar content are your sources of pleasure.
Your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and motivation, whenever you eat highly palatable foods. They stimulate your brain’s reward system and effectively give you relief.
Comfort food can also evoke some sense of nostalgia, especially if it’s something you ate growing up. It can be the avocado ice cream your grandma gave you when you were finally able to read fluently. Or the corn soup your mom made whenever you’re sick and she’d never leave your side until you finished it all—just something that will make you think of fond memories instead of bad ones.