4 Reasons We Crave Comfort Food – Finding Healthier Comfort Options

Why We Have Comfort Food Cravings

comfort foodDo you have that special go to meal that feels so much more than just food? There’s no shame in it, we all have at least that one meal which is elevated above the rest, imbued with past experiences, memories, or even associated with a close family member.

Yes, it turns out food may be more than just nutritive; often it has the ability to affect our emotional and psychological wellbeing, and the power to change our mood. This phenomenon explains food and sugar addiction, binge eating disorder and the inability to control what we eat.

Can you relate to that special meal recipe that you go to for comfort every time? Well science may have found the reasons why.

They Are Predominantly Fat And Carbohydrate Based

Yes, it is likely your favorite comfort food list is nowhere near healthy, and is high in fat or carb/sugar levels. While it may seem coincidental on the surface, there is much more going on beneath it all. For one, carbs are able to boost our serotonin levels, which belong to a group of neurochemicals known as Endorphins.

These endorphins elevate our mood and sense of well-being, albeit for a very short time. If you find yourself wanting another quick fix in your comfort food of choice (cookies maybe?) these feel good chemicals may be the reason.

Fat on the other hand, acts a little more unpredictably. In studies, it was found that subjects who viewed sad movies, or listened to sad music were unaffected or demonstrated reduced negative emotions when consuming foods high in saturated fats. This could explain the reason many poor eating habits start while one is depressed and spiral out of control.

Comfort Food Acts As A Companion

As previously noted above, sometimes people go to their comfort food of choice when experiencing feelings of depression of loneliness. This comes as no surprise, since for millennia people all over the world have bonded over food; formed alliances, developed romantic feelings and even used as hospitality gifts for guests.

Women and men may desire different foods as companions, however, as men typically desire solid meals while women prefer snacking. Comfort food may be seen as soothing, or bringing a sense of peace, and is one of the social reasons why we crave them so much in turbulent times.

They Are Linked To Emotions

Do you have that treat or meal that grandma used to make when you were a kid? Chances are she personally taught you the recipe, and you make it when missing her or seeking to be close to her by using something of hers.

That meal or recipe is probably filled with good nostalgic emotions of going to her home every weekend and having a grand old time. It could be anything else, even as recent as an ex love who will forever be part of you.

The Cold And Sunless Winter

The cravings for comfort food seem to get worse as winter draws near, as some people develop symptoms of a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). UV light hours have a positive relationship with one’s overall mood, and could explain why many “bulk up” during the winter months.

If your comfort food is causing you to gain too much weight, try to get as much sunlight as possible during the shortened day hours, and supplement with mood boosting nutrients.

Finding Healthier Options

  1. Sometimes, it takes another comfort food to replace one. Luckily, the new one could be much healthier, while still supplying the comfort you’ve come to know and love.
  2. Make New Memories- we’re not advocating you forget the memories that you hold dear, but forming new memories that do not directly relate to food is a better option. If your grandpa used to take you fishing at a particular spot, try to associate with that instead of a meal.
  3. Get Out More! – Let’s face it, comfort food binging frequently occurs when we’re lonely or depressed. A good fix for that? Go out with friends. Your mood will improve, and you don’t have to sit meaninglessly eating your life away


Comfort food is just that – finding comfort in food. It is not a very good tool to fix loneliness, depression or other negative emotions.

Though grandma’s apple pie brings back vividly good memories, associate yourself with experiences from the present, and form real comforting memories that do not depend on food.