June 13, 2024

Chinese food for lunch at the cafe

Food is one of the delights of the world. Food is not only essential for us to function, but it carries with it culture, traditions, aesthetics and experiences. For example, one of the culinary traditions in America is eating turkey for Thanksgiving or building a gingerbread house for Christmas. But there is another thing that food offers besides history and memories — it can provide comfort.

 Bryan Lopez, freshman architecture major, said his favorite comfort food is pasta.

 “Any kind of pasta is my favorite comfort food,” Lopez said. 

Pasta is surprisingly high on the list of comfort foods for many people. Emiko Davies, Italian food expert and author at FOOD52.com, said that a key aspect of comfort foods is carbs. 

“Comfort food is usually something that’s warm and hearty, with lots of carbohydrates,” Davies said. “Carbohydrates increase serotonin levels in the brain and produce an immediate calming feeling.”

 According to the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science (2017), this is true, describing comfort food as “those foods whose consumption provides consolation or a feeling of well-being. It is often suggested that comfort foods have a high calorie content, that they are high in sugar and/or carbohydrates.” 

Although pasta is a popular choice, Julianna Carillo, sophomore pre-nursing student, said her comfort food is Hot Cheetos. “Honestly, Hot Cheetos bring me the most comfort because of the nostalgia,” Carillo said. “They remind me of high school.”

Another key component to comfort foods besides being high in carbohydrates is the psychological aspect of the memories of eating that food. 

Susan Whitborne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said in an article for Psychology Today that taste memories are the strongest of associative memories that you can make. 

“Food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meanings,” Whitbourne said. “A lot of our memories as children. It’s not so much the apple pie, for example, but the whole experience of being a family, being nourished and that acquires a lot of symbolism apart from the sensory quality.”

Therefore, eating a food such as a soup that grandma used to cook can be comforting not just because the soup is good but because it reminds you of your grandma. 

But whether your comfort food of choice is a food from your childhood or a carby sweet, do these foods actually improve our moods? 

The answer is yes, according to the results of a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. 81% of North Americans responded to the survey that eating their preferred comfort food made them mentally feel better than before. 

Additionally, the journal Psychological Science published a study in which resulting data showed that consuming foods that are personally associated with good thoughts and warm feelings not only improves a sense of overall well-being, but they decrease loneliness, too. 

There are many psychological  benefits in just one bite. Next time you want a comfort food, give in. It is like the hot cup of apple cider is embracing you in a warm hug. 

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