Doctorate Housewife

What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…

What makes comfort food so comforting?

What do you eat when you’re tired, sad, or want a reward? What’s your comfort food? For me, well… let me remind you of my four food groups: bread, fruit, cheese, chocolate. Oh and then there’s the side, yet very important peanut butter group =p So pretty much anything that somehow fits those categories, like this…

or this…

or this…

or maybe even this…

But what makes eating something sweet (or savoury if that’s your thing) so comforting? Psychobiologist Mark Wilson says it starts with this: “It’s like you need X amount of good feeling in the course of existence and you can get it in different ways.” He works at the National Primate Research Center and Emory University. Long story short, he gave a bunch of monkeys the king of monkey comfort food – sugar infused banana flavoured pellets (sounds yummy right?!). All the monkeys had the opportunity to binge eat as much as they liked. But something strange happened. The monkeys at the top of the social hierarchy kept their caloric intake pretty much the same, while subordinate monkeys partied like it was 1999. Wilson’s conclusion – a sugary boost excites the dopamine pathways in the brain. So what do you do if you desperately want the dopamine hit that comes with binging on chocolate cake, but not the next day sugar coma and extra pounds? Find another supplier and get OUT of the kitchen. There’s a whole list of awesome things that also activate the dopamine pathways:

  • exercise
  • hanging out with friends
  • listening to music
  • achieving something

So try one of these… and then if you still want to eat the ENTIRE cake, try just a piece  – you’ll get the dopamine, but not the coma =D

If you have other curious questions that might be answered by cutting edge research in various scientific fields or even if you just like random trivia, check out Garth Sundem’s book Brain Trust

And, in case the above pictures have got you grabbing for your apron, here are the recipes:


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This entry was posted on May 16, 2012 by in Healthy Living and tagged , .

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