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The Truth About Comfort Food

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When the going gets rough, who doesn’t crave a tacky slice of pizza or a warm bowl of ramen? Especially today! Since the start of the pandemic, 1 in 4 individuals report turning to consolation food extra typically, in accordance with a current International Food Information Council survey. But how comforting is comfort food, actually?

Maybe not that much, says a brand new British Journal of Health Psychology research. To see how a person’s snacking decisions impacted their state of mind, researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia tracked the diets and moods of 140 volunteers. After 2 weeks, they found that those who self-soothed with unhealthy snacks received a tiny temper increase, but just for about an hour. For the subsequent 2 hours after that, their outlooks progressively darkened. 

On the flip aspect, individuals who grabbed healthy snacks skilled a small dip for the subsequent hour, however then their moods improved dramatically.

What is consolation food? “We tend to search for comfort in foods that we consumed, or were given to us, when we were young,” says Charles Spence, M.A., Ph.D., a professor of experimental psychology on the University of Oxford in England and writer of Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living. So whereas a warm brownie may be one person’s feel-good food, grilled cheese might do the trick for another person. 

Either approach, comfort meals virtually all the time have one thing in widespread. They’re loaded with unhealthy elements, like saturated fat, refined carbs, or salt, that turn on pleasure centers in the brain. “When we experience these rewarding or pleasurable sensations, we quickly associate them with the things that led to the experience,” says Stefania Franja, lead researcher of the British Journal of Psychology research and a Ph.D. candidate on the University of Tasmania. Then, subsequent time you’re feeling crummy, your brain remembers that these meals helped you are feeling better, even when it was only for a short while.

Why do consolation meals backfire? Blame it on all those refined carbs and sugar. “Consuming carbohydrates triggers insulin, which in turn stimulates serotonin, one of the key “happy” neurotransmitters,” says Franja. “Although sugary foods are packed with simple carbohydrates, it is the complex carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables that provide a longer-lasting positive effect on mood due to their slower release of glucose.” 

This might explain why the research volunteers who snacked on refined carb-filled baked goods, candy, chips, and fast food only received a fast bump, whereas those who nibbled on fruits, veggies, dairy products, and nuts enjoyed a protracted carry. 

Then there’s one more reason these healthy eats do good things on your spirits. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that nourish the brain, says Franja.

Next time you’re looking for that warm fuzzy feeling, attempt grabbing a healthy snack your mother or one other liked one might have given you—or opt for certainly one of these healthy foods which may enhance your temper.  You may also attempt whipping up a lighter model of your favourite comfort food. 

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