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Comfort food: Because we comfort ourselves with food, according to science

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It is called comfort food because it relaxes us in times of stress. But according to scientists, there are specific reasons why we choose certain foods to comfort ourselves

Eugene Spagnolo

– Milan

There are those who focus on ice cream and those who, following the cinematic example of Nanni Moretti, throw themselves at Nutella. but list comfort food It’s long and frequently updated: Everyone has their own, on hand, for when we’re feeling down, stressed, or need solace. But why do we crave certain foods and can’t stop eating them? Especially Do comfort foods really relax us?

Comfort food: why we can’t do without it

There are many reasons we love comfort food. The first is revealed A study published in the journal Physiology and behavioraccording to what our brain possesses of someFun hot spots“, specialized sub-areas that amplify the pathological sensations that emanate from Sugary, fatty and salty foods. Eating them thus causes a dopamine rush, which increases the motivation to consume other palatable rewards.

In an article published in International Journal of Gastronomy and Food ScienceSpence identified the characteristics they should have Comfort foods: They are easy to prepare, we associate them with a kind of past celebration and they are often high in sugar or carbohydrates (So ​​it contains few calories).

Why do we crave unhealthy foods?

Let’s face it: if we want to improve our mood, we hardly treat ourselves to a salad or a piece of celery. It’s the foods Excessive appetite To stimulate intense pleasure sensations, because Stimulating the release of various hormones in addition to dopamine, including insulin, cortisol (stress) and leptin (hunger). On the other hand, healthy foods don’t seem to have this superpower. Leafy greens, for example, are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but low in sugar and salt — so our brains don’t tend to crave them in the same way we crave french fries, Ice cream or the Pizza.

Do comfort foods really help us?

Comfort foods are a way to relieve stress, but they are not always effective in achieving the goal. In a 2022 survey of 2,000 British adults, 1 in 4 people admitted to eating comfort food at least 5 times a week, but more than half (56%) said these meals make them feel worse. And 57% of the participants said they regretted having committed the sin of bingeing to de-stress. the Feed him comfortIn short, they will be effective in giving us a short dopamine boost, but they can also trigger feelings of regret, perhaps because we know they are not nutritionally beneficial. Other research has found that Comfort foods have the ability to calm our sense of well-being, but no more than any other food. Second A study published in the journal Health PsychologyFor example, it is true that they can make us feel better instantly, but any food, no matter how much we want to eat it, can give us the same result. practically, We believe that a certain food has the power to make us feel better. But, with exercise, we can also get the same effects with healthy foods. seeing is believing.

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