When people feel sad, it’s usual for them to reach for foods that give them comfort. The popular examples of these are ice cream, chocolate, and chips. Today, new research helps to show how such foods can boost our moods. Researchers that are led by Lukas Van Oudenhove, MD, Ph.D., at the University of Leuven in Belgium made use of functional MRI scans for charting the different areas of the human brain. They lit up when 12 healthy and non-obese individuals felt sadness and received an infusion of fatty acid or saline delivered through a feeding tube. The participants who received the fatty acid blast reported feeling as half sad as those people who received the saline infusion. The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Many comfort foods come with a considerable amount of fatty acids. According to Treena Wynes, a wellness consultant in Saskatoon, Canada said that emotional eating is a coping mechanism for dealing with intense feelings, stress, or depression or depressed moods that can increase the chances of becoming obese. Our very own moods and emotions strongly motivate our urge to eat.
She further added that fatty acids could give the best benefits to enhance moods and brain functions that can improve feelings, thinking, and behavior. They are now being recognized for being able to stabilize moods and to possess antidepressant effects apart from satiety.
There are several factors to contribute to people’s tendency to resort to comfort eating. First is that of feeling goodness. Eating food that is high in sugar, fat, and salt may activate the human brain’s reward system. For instance, chocolate affects the mood powerfully which increases pleasant feelings and reduces tension.
Comfort food is often considered as part of self-medication. It seems like there is a strong connection between negative emotions and all the unhealthy foods. This is called emotional eating. A study (Mann, 2015) discovered that even if comfort foods offer relief from negative moods, they’re not the only ones. Other types of food also have the same effects and even not taking any food at all.
One other phenomenon is called nostalgic eating. It has been accepted that there is a strong link between scents and emotional memory. The smell of certain foods may evoke clear and purely detailed emotional memories. The history of a person makes a person predisposed to enjoy several types of foods. Odor-evoked memories are always positive; it’s the smell that improves the moods and elicits feelings of being socially connected.
There is also that need of belongingness. There are those foods that we tend to associate with our family members, social gatherings, and even with people who have been taking care of us. That means that if we feel lonely, we crave for such foods to provide us comfort and security. It means to say that the power of comfort food lies primarily in the associations that the food calls to mind. An example of this is a college student who is away from home for the first time. Comfort food may remind him of his family or any relationship in times of loneliness and stress. For more information about comfort foods, you may check bakedcomfortfood.com.