There is nothing better than coming home after a long day and cuddling up to the television with a warm blanket and a favorite meal. Snuggling into the couch, all problems seem to disappear with every sip of hot chocolate—don’t forget the marshmallows—and every bite of that creamy mac and cheese.
At first glance, it may seem “bad days” are being utilized as an excuse to give in to poor eating habits; however, according to Psychology Today, comfort foods provide numerous benefits to mental health that stretch beyond the importance of minimizing extra calories every now and then.
Certain positive factors have been credited to the consumption of these high energy foods such as chocolate, ice-cream and mashed potatoes. One of the biggest factors is the simple fact that these foods make the consumer feel good. “Eating food high in fat, sugar or salt activates the brain’s reward system,” explains Psychology Today. As the body receives highly palatable foods, it is stimulated in a way that brings a sense of pleasure and reward, often the feelings humans require after a rough day at work. It is necessary to provide a warning; however, as too many fatty and sugary foods can lead to poorer moods; moderation is always key.
As 2019 is ending and the holiday season has begun, this next point is well-timed. According to Psychology Today, “we tend to associate certain foods with members of our family, social gatherings, and people taking care of us.” Therefore, the comfort aspect of these meals is not necessarily due to the taste itself, but the memories flavor association can resurface. This phenomenon can be relatable to a college student who is away from home. Personally, nothing makes me feel better than breaking out chicken noodle soup, turning on Downton Abbey and calling my mom right after to explain what episode I have been watching.
Although there are a plethora of delicious foods out there, some are shown more love than others. Ranker, a site offering viewers interactive polls, released a survey asking what comfort food its followers found most appealing. NBC News has noted pizza, grilled cheese and chocolate are the most popular comfort foods, according to the Ranker study. Most popular does not mean most healthy, but NBC News also provides a few healthy tips and tricks that should be checked out if your week is in desperate need of extra, extra chocolate.
Additionally, if you do not want to eat your comfort, squeezing it is an option. Squishable, a stuffed toy manufacturer, produces a Comfort Food line that can be purchased on their website, Amazon and West Virginia University’s very own bookstore.