• December 2014

The Joy of Comfort Food

Ahh, comfort food. Those traditionally yummy meals that provide us with a nostalgic or sentimental feeling. True, they are frequently packed with carbohydrates, but they are typically easy to prepare.

Easy preparation is not their only advantage. Eating comfort food actually makes people feel better, although they are often served a side of guilt to go with it. Studies have shown that these comforting meals relieve negative psychological effects and increase positive feelings.

Case in point: In a study published in Physiology & Behavior, Brian Wansink, Matthew M. Cheney, and Nina Chan developed a framework to examine preferences toward comfort foods.

Study 1 focused on 411 people to determine favored comfort foods; Study 2 quantified preferences for these foods across gender and age groups using a stratified sample of 1,005 additional people. Consistent with the researchers’ hypotheses, the findings showed:

  • Men preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods: steak, casseroles, and soup.
  • In contrast, women preferred comfort foods that were more snack related: chocolate and ice cream.
  • Younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55.
  • The researchers also found strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt.

Additional studies suggest that positive emotions trigger consumption of comfort food in men, and negative emotions spur comfort food consumption in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33 percent reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress.

Who didn’t know that, right?

What are the top comfort foods? For guidance, we refer to what may be the best resource: Southern Living magazine.

Following are 10 of their 101 Best Classic Comfort Food Recipes. Bon appetite!

1. Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie (pictured here)

2. Chunky Beef Chili

3. Classic Chicken and Dumplings

4. Fried Green Tomatoes

5. Mom’s Pecan Pie

6. Shrimp and Grits

7. Easy Brunswick Stew

8. Pecan-Peach Cobbler

9. Chicken-Fried Steak

10. Cinnamon Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing

Click here for more down-home comfort.

And click here to see more research on happiness.

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