Whether or not it’s a heat piece of sourdough bread, grandma’s flavorful beef stew, or a fresh-out-of-the-oven pastry, some meals simply offer you a heat and fuzzy feeling.

These so-called consolation meals fill our stomachs and our souls — even when they’re not at all times the healthiest decisions.

There’s no denying that consolation meals makes us really feel good. However is there a scientific purpose for that satisfaction, or is all of it in our heads?

And are there more healthy methods to fulfill these consolation meals cravings? Right here’s what it is advisable know.

What Is Consolation Meals?

Consolation meals is any meals that gives a way of well-being, nostalgia, or consolation.

Tradition, upbringing, dietary habits, and previous experiences can all form what an individual reaches for as consolation meals.

One particular person could gravitate in the direction of sweets like ice cream, whereas one other could crave one thing savory like pizza.

“The concept of ‘consolation meals’ actually varies from individual to individual,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., and proprietor of BZ Vitamin. “The reality about consolation meals is that it has nothing to do with the precise meals, and every little thing to do with our affiliation with the meals.”

How Do Consolation Meals Present Consolation?

“Typical consolation meals fulfill a number of wants,” says Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D., a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in Sports activities Dietetics.

First, there’s the essential enjoyment issue: Analysis suggests the scent of meals can activate the realm of the mind that releases dopamine, the physique’s feel-good neurotransmitter.

However consolation meals additionally has a robust emotional factor.

Goodson says these meals “sometimes consolation us as a result of they’ve a nostalgic part and hyperlink us to one thing acquainted or optimistic.”

It’s a type of classical conditioning.

Meals we affiliate with a optimistic or comforting reminiscence can set off that very same sense of consolation any time we eat them — whether or not it’s the nice and cozy rooster noodle soup your mother at all times made if you had been sick or the chocolate cake you requested yearly on your birthday.

chicken soup in a bowl

Do Consolation Meals Actually Make You Really feel Higher?

You might really feel higher after consuming a favourite consolation meals, however it most likely isn’t the meals itself that’s comforting you.

“Consolation meals present a false sense of consolation and are largely a psychological response,” Zeitlin says. “That’s to not say you don’t benefit from the meals and that they don’t style good — they do! However reaching for them ‘for consolation’ relies in your emotions and your relationship to them.”

Consolation meals could not even be as uniquely comforting as we predict.

In a 2014 research, individuals watched a film that triggered a unfavourable emotional response. They had been then served their chosen consolation meals, a impartial meals, or no meals in any respect.

Researchers discovered that “consolation meals led to vital enhancements in temper, however not more than different meals or no meals.”

And if emotional consuming is inflicting you to succeed in for consolation meals, bear in mind the temper enhance will doubtless be non permanent.

After you end that favourite consolation meals, Zeitlin says, you continue to must face no matter feelings, stressors, anger, or frustration that despatched you diving headfirst into that dish within the first place.

close up a spoon picking up macaroni and cheese

Is Consolation Meals Unhealthy?

It doesn’t must be! For instance, a heat bowl of rooster noodle soup or a creamy chai smoothie might be wholesome and comforting choices.

However consolation meals usually lands on the less-healthy facet of the spectrum.

“Sometimes folks crave chips and queso over broccoli, and chocolate cake over Greek yogurt,” Goodson says.

And if you happen to overdo it on these meals, it might negate the temper enhance.

“Finally it wears off shortly and we’re left feeling precisely as we had been earlier than — typically even worse, as a result of we could really feel overstuffed, bloated, or regretful,” Zeitlin says.

With that stated, it’s okay to take pleasure in a favourite consolation meals — carefully, after all. However do it since you benefit from the meals, to not soothe emotions of unhappiness, nervousness, stress, or frustration.

“As an alternative, eat your go-to treats if you genuinely need them, and never when you find yourself in your emotions,” Zeitlin says. “The meals will style so significantly better if you savor it and revel in it, as an alternative of utilizing it as a method to keep away from one thing tough.”

Attempt These Wholesome Consolation Meals Swaps

Dietary swaps abound, so it’s often attainable to cut back the quantity of energy, sugar, or fats in your consolation meals of alternative.

Listed here are a number of methods to make consolation meals more healthy:

However typically it’s higher to easily take pleasure in a small portion of the consolation meals you crave quite than eat 10 servings of the more healthy model in an try to fulfill that craving, Goodson says.

You might also discover a new consolation meals by constructing a optimistic affiliation with a wholesome recipe or snack.

For instance, if you happen to at all times sip Shakeology after you end a exercise, you’ll begin to affiliate the shake with that feeling of accomplishment.

Or add a number of consolation food-inspired recipes to your meal prep and uncover your new favourite home-cooked dinner.