What Makes You Crave Comfort Food?
Cravings can be powerful but paired with comfort food, cravings can dominate. But why do we crave certain foods? More specifically, why do we crave comfort food? Read on and find out!
Grandma cooking meatloaf in the kitchen, mom pulling out chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, and dad grilling hamburgers. Did the thought of those foods and smells spark a craving? Did any memories come flooding in? Cravings can be powerful but paired with comfort food, cravings can dominate. But why do we crave certain foods? More specifically, why do we crave comfort food?
The Science of Cravings Explained
Cravings are often times mental desires. "It's all in your head" has been supported by research along with food and sugar addiction. However, food cravings can correlate to underlying nutritional deficiencies. Craving candy? The body might be low in energy and needing that extra jolt sugar provides. Craving salt? The body could be dehydrated. Craving steak? The body is searching for iron that red meat offers. Remarkably, bodies know what they are hungry for to achieve optimal function. A simple craving means much more than a food sensation.
The Comfort of Food
Even though cravings can connect to underlying deficiencies, cravings for comfort foods dig deeper. Comfort foods have a different identity and meaning to everyone. However, they all have one thing in common: they have links to feelings, emotions, and memories. With emotional strings attached, understanding why we crave comfort food delves further into the body's physiological need for nutrients. Engraved in these foods are personal connections. Comfort foods provide a sense of security and well like the name states, comfort. A bad day at work has the potential to trigger the want and need for homemade chicken and dumplings that Grandma used to make.
Comfort foods are often times thought to, and more than likely do, have a high carbohydrate and fat content. The high fat and carbohydrate, ultimately breaking down into sugar, can create addictive effects. Sugar, especially, has been shown to be highly "craveable." The American Heart Association recommends six teaspoons (about 25 grams) for women and nine teaspoons (about 37 grams) for men of added sugar per day. To put this in perspective, one can of Coke-a-Cola contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. One can of soda already exceeds the recommendations for both men and women.
Seeking out comfort food is ultimately inevitable. However, food enjoyment and health should align and run parallel for the ultimate positive relationship with food. With comfort foods being mostly linked to high sugar, fat, and calories, it is important to keep the portions and amounts in check. If the cravings are continuous, try training the taste buds to enjoy other foods. If Grandma's apple pie becomes too regular, try simply cutting up an apple and cook with sprinkled cinnamon. The added sugar and fat will be minimized while nutrients and fiber will be maximized. However, resorting to food for comfort can be tricky business. By staying mindful of the portion and quality of the food, comfort foods can fit in a balanced diet.
Magee E. The Facts about Food Cravings. WebMD. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/the-facts-about-food-cravings