The magic of comfort food

20 Mar 2020 / 16:00 H.

Comfort food has sentimental or nostalgic value to a person when they eat it. Comfort food is food that we yearn for when we feel down, or when we just need a little comfort. It could be your mum’s special mac and cheese, or a simple soup noodle.

Here is a list of some of the most popular comfort foods, and the reasons why we feel better after eating them:

Ice cream

The magic of comfort food

It’s strange how a simple dessert can cause a foodgasm. Ever wonder why we yearn for ice-cream when we feel down? According to a study conducted in 2010 at the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, the reward system in our brains activates and fires up when we treat ourselves to an ice-cream cone. In simpler terms, eating ice-cream pleasures the brain – a lot.


The magic of comfort food

Chocolate lovers have known this for a long time. Based on a study done in 1996, eating chocolate can raise the levels of endorphins in the brain. The Centre for Human Pharmacology at the Swinburne University of Technology also performed a study with results confirming that the components of chocolate can make a person happy. Tryptophan, an amino acid present in small amounts in chocolates, is also linked to the production of serotonin.

Mac and cheese

The magic of comfort food

Mac and cheese is another dish that fires up the reward centres in our brains like a carnival. According to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, it’s due to the high fat and carbohydrate content. Interestingly, it could also be due to how our brains perceive that it’s more rewarding to eat food with a high fat and carbohydrate content. Based on these results, it’s understandable why some of us find comfort in eating fried and greasy food such as pizzas, fried chicken, burgers and char kuey teow.


The magic of comfort food

Whether mashed or fried, potatoes can help incite happiness after they are consumed. A specialist in addictive nutrition, Dr Kathleen DesMaisons, who also wrote Potatoes Not Prozac, said that potatoes are “antidepressants in a brown package.” This is because eating potatoes with or without their skin can raise levels of serotonin.

Chicken soup

The magic of comfort food

Chicken soup brings comfort to some people especially when they’re feeling ill. A study done by Dr Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska found that chicken soup can help slow down the neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) in the body. While neutrophils help fight off infections, it also causes more inflammation and mucus production in the body at the same time.

We feel comfort after drinking chicken soup because the slowing down of neutrophils reduces inflammation in the body. Chicken soup also contains vitamins A and C, selenium and various antioxidants which can aid in boosting our immune system as well.

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