Food is one of the greatest pleasures of life. The sheer pleasure of sitting down with a plate of your favorite foods, combined with a related activity that ranges from the highly social (sharing a meal with others) to the ultimately antisocial (curling up alone with a movie, TV show, or a book), is unrivaled by any other activity. And the fact that humans are required to engage in this activity on average three times a day in order to survive: food is truly marvelous.
What Defines a Comfort Food?
Some foods are inherently calming and comforting, and sometimes it all comes down to relative temperature. A hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night, for example, warms your heart while literally warming your stomach. A tall icy glass of lemonade on a scorching summer’s day has the same effect but in a completely opposite way.
Other foods provide comfort for emotional or sentimental reasons. Did your mother used to give you a certain food when she was pleased with you? Perhaps you’d be treated to pizza or French fries if you brought home a good report card, or perhaps a cosy, happy family meal always included apple pie for dessert. It makes sense that these foods still hold special meaning for you.
There’s nothing wrong with reaching for comfort foods when you need a little pick-me-up, or when you want to reward or treat yourself. If your comfort food of choice is a particularly sinful one – high in calories, fat, or salt – then it’s a good idea to saver your comfort foods for when you really need them, and make a point of sticking with a healthy diet the rest of the time. The U.S. Government has a range of information on its Dietary Guidelines to help you adhere to a healthy eating plan most of the time.
On the other hand, if you have room to move in your quest for comfort food, you may be surprised to learn that there is a wide variety of comfort foods that won’t set your diet and healthy eating plan back too far.
Comfort Foods with Superpowers
Fried Rice with Quinoa
If fried rice is your ultimate comfort food, switch up the rice with superfood quinoa for a more filling, higher protein version of the classic favorite. Check out the recipe here.
What’s the holidays without turkey? For many people, turkey conjures images of family togetherness and holiday cheer. Thankfully, turkey is actually an excellent source of protein, and a surprising mood-booster that has nothing to do with the holidays. L-tryptophan is an amino acid found in most high-protein foods, but turkey has particularly high doses. L-tryptophan encourages the production of serotonin, your body’s natural “happy drug” that regulates your mood.
Cashews and Other Nuts
Nuts are an interesting comfort food. Whether the attraction comes from their natural crunch and saltiness, or whether there are underlying happy memories associated with shelling and eating raw peanuts or roasting chestnuts on a wintry night, remains to be seen.
Luckily, nuts are full of protein and are truly filling, making them a wonderful food for anyone to enjoy. Cashews in particular are an excellent source of zinc and, with research from Oregon State University suggesting that 12% of people in the United States are zinc deficient, it’s something to keep in mind.
Comfort for The Sake of Comfort
For many people, chocolate is the ultimate comfort food. While there are admittedly some health benefits from eating chocolate – such as the antioxidants contained in dark chocolate that can lower blood pressure and assist with mood regulation – generally it’s the taste, creamy texture, and sugary goodness that draws people directly to chocolate.
If chocolate is your comfort food, don’t fight it, but do try to limit your quantities. It’s better to allow yourself a few squares of chocolate when you really feel like it than to eat a whole block in one go and regret it later.
Pizza and Salty Fried Food
Do you head straight for a fast food joint when the need for comfort food strikes? You’re not alone. There’s a reason why the fast food formula works, and a lot of it comes down to consistency. You can walk into almost any fast food chain in America, order your “usual,” and it will come out the same.
There aren’t too many redeeming features in pizza and other salty fried food, so save these comfort foods for a treat and try to choose another, slightly healthier comfort food for other days.
What Are Your Favorite Comfort Foods?
Now it’s your turn. Grab your favorite comfort food, have some mouth wipes at the ready, and comment below to let us know which foods you turn to when you need to indulge. And don’t forget to share this article with your favorite foodie friends!
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