The definition of comfort food from Merriam-Webster is: food prepared in a traditional style having a nostalgic or sentimental appeal. Another definition of comfort food from Oxford Languages is “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.” There are many ways you can perceive comfort food whether it brings back a memory, or it’s just something delicious and is your favorite meal to have, either way it’s a specific food that you believe brings you comfort. Meals like your grandma’s brownies recipe that you used to have as a kid, or the way your dad made his burgers, if it is able to help ease you and create an idea of nostalgia it might be your comfort food.
Shira Gabriel, an associate professor of psychology at the State University New York Buffalo believes the best way to look at comfort food is to shift the focus from food itself. Her research defines comfort food as “anything that a person uses to feel better”. Here in the U.S. we think of universal foods such as ice cream and french fries. Gabriel says, “When we think about something like comfort food, we tend to think about it as providing calories or warmth or a sense of well-being…But what we don’t think about is that comfort food also provides something social to us”.
Comfort Food Around the World
As ice cream and french fries can be a known comfort food here in the states, comfort food is different around the world. In Japan, a type of comfort food could be ramen. A Japanese soup consisting of noodles, and your choice of protein vegetables and broth. In Canada a known delicacy poutine, which is fries covered in gravy. Fish and chips is a popular British meal, which is basically battered fish and french fries. French onion soup, though is popular in the U.S. is also a well-known dish of France. All of these comfort meals relate to a specific part of the world, and when eaten can provide a feeling of nostalgia, warmth and comfort.
Here are some great recipes for the dishes above:
For healthy comfort food recipes:
Comfort Food is Therapy Too
Believe it or not there is a science behind comfort food and a reason it can be therapeutic for people. It even has some health benefits attached to comfort foods. A healthy diet doesn’t only consist of healthy foods, it also should include food that makes you happy. Some people think that a healthy diet means eating things that they don’t usually enjoy, but weight isn’t the only way to stay healthy, you must keep your heart and mind healthy as well. When eating is pleasurable it can lead to a lot happier state of mind. Consuming a diet of foods you don’t like can make you feel hungry, tired, unhappy, and the diet will most likely fail.
Comfort food has been proven to have many health benefits. It stimulates the production of substances in our brain that are associated with improved mood, enhanced energy, and positive state of mind. It can also be therapeutic. If you have a love of ice cream, researchers have found that eating fatty acids, which can be found in ice cream, make us less vulnerable to have negative or sad emotions. Certain foods have been known to create a positive state of mind, for example turkey. Turkey is a source of low-fat protein rich with tyrosine, a hormone that increases dopamine and noradrenaline, which are related to increased motivation and stress resistance.
Other foods that have health benefits:
Red meats– boosts iron and energy
Hot peppers– contains capsaicin which releases euphoria-producing endorphins
Bananas, dark chocolate, and almonds– Foods filled with magnesium reduce anxiety and stress
A Comforting Experience
At Spring Hills, mealtime brings comfort to the people in our care. It’s not just about nurturing the body; the experience also nurtures the soul. We are extremely proud of our Signature Dining Program. Our menu delights and satisfies at our Spring Hills Assisted Living Communities. We are committed to giving our residents a rich and pleasurable dining experience every day. In addition to providing delicious meals and personalized service, our thoughtful dining staff also works individually with residents to accommodate special dietary needs and requests. Our menus also include favorite comfort foods and delectable desserts that tempt the taste buds, as well as scrumptious snacks and quenching beverages provided throughout the day. We understand the importance that comfort food has in incorporating health, physical, mental and spiritual. Though we include heart-healthy, diabetic-friendly, vegetarian and garden fresh options, we also want our residents to enjoy a meal and feel that sense of comfort and if we can bring up feelings of nostalgia. Learn more about our signature dining here.