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Comfort Foods Calm Emotions

Comfort Foods Calm Emotions Perhaps as a testament to our growing waistlines, researchers have found familiar foods are helpful in calming emotions.

For example, while mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and meatloaf may be bad for your arteries, they may reduce sadness and stress. Comfort foods seem to help calm our emotions.

“For me personally, food has always been big in my family,” said Jordan Troisi, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo.

The study came out of the research program of his co-author Shira Gabriel, Ph.D., which has looked at social surrogates — things that make people feel like they belong.

Some people counteract loneliness by bonding with their favorite TV show, building virtual relationships with a celebrity or a movie character, or looking at pictures and mementos of loved ones. Troisi and Gabriel wondered if food could have the same effect by making people think of their nearest and dearest.

In one experiment, the researchers tried to make some participants feel lonely by having them write for six minutes about a fight with someone close to them. Others were given an emotionally neutral writing assignment.

Then, some people in each group wrote about the experience of eating a comfort food and others wrote about eating a new food.

Finally, the researchers used a questionnaire to measure loneliness.

Writing about a fight with a close person made people feel lonely. But people who were generally secure in their relationships — something that was assessed before the experiment — were able to rescue themselves from loneliness by writing about a comfort food.

“What we found is that people have the capacity to create a comfort food for themselves by having it be something that’s consistently associated with their close others,” said Troisi.

In their essays on comfort food, many people wrote about the experience of eating food with family and friends.

In another experiment, eating chicken soup in the lab made people think more about relationships if they considered chicken soup to be a comfort food. They’d been asked about that a long time before the experiment, along with a lot of other questions, so they wouldn’t remember it.

“Throughout everyone’s daily lives they experience stress, often associated with our connections with others,” Troisi said.

“This is sort of a ready-made easy resource for remedying a sense of loneliness. It seems like it almost doesn’t take very much to regain those feelings and feel like we’re connected with others.”

Researchers will publish their findings in an upcoming edition of the journal Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Comfort Foods Calm Emotions

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Comfort Foods Calm Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 22 Mar 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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