Comfort food is the kind of food that provides the person that eats it with nostalgic or sentimental value.
Most of the time, it’s usually of a high caloric nature, high carbohydrate levels, and simple preparation.
This sentimental value can be specific to one individual or to a culture as a whole.
One of the major reasons people seek comfort food is because it makes us feel good.
Generally, foods that are high in fat, sugar, or salt activate the brain’s reward system.
A top example of this is, undisputedly, chocolate. Chocolate is known to have a very strong effect on mood, reduce tension, and amplify pleasant feelings.
However, you should consume these comfort foods with caution as they can be addictive. Comfort foods activate the same parts of the brain that are linked to pleasure and reward which are active in drug addiction.
- Consolation for yourself
Studies have shown a consistent link between negative emotions and unhealthy food. This explains why we always turn to eat these foods during emotional distress and hardships.
- Comfort food makes us feel like we belong
These kinds of food are typically linked with members of our family, social gatherings, and holidays.
That’s why we always get an urge to eat comfort food when we feel lonely or down.
- Nostalgic eating
Moreover, studies show that emotional memories are associated with some scents. That’s why just the smell of comfort food is enough to induce feelings of joy and tranquility.
These feelings are doubled if this type of food is something you used to eat during your childhood or during positive periods of your life.
- Reminders of the good old days
Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas gatherings, and birthday parties are often the occasions we tend to go for special –and more often than not, unhealthy- meals.
This is another reason comfort food is associated with feelings of happiness and social connectedness.
Some of the best comfort foods are baked ones as baking itself has a lot of benefits over other methods of cooking.
- Baked foods don’t lose as many nutrients
When you cook baked food, you use dry heat instead of water to cook it. This helps keep some minerals and water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-B inside the food so it doesn’t lose any nutritional value.
A 2009 study even showed that baking or microwaving your food led to less loss of antioxidant activity especially in green beans, carrots, and celery. On the other hand, deep frying and boiling led to huge losses.
- Baked food is a lot lower in fat
A huge advantage of baking your food is that you can use a lot less oil than you would if you fry it or sauté it. You can even go as far as baking your food without oil altogether.
Since oil is the major contributor to fat in the human body, this spares you a lot of fat.
Pro tip: You can bake your vegetables with their skin on to prevent them from drying out.
- AGE (Advanced Glycation End) products
AGE is the protein that forms as a result of exposure to sugars. It plays a major role when it comes to developing diabetes and aging.
Most deep-fried foods, such as French fries, are coated in starch which reacts to form carcinogens when you deep fry it.
- Baked food helps you with your weight management
To bake your food, you require little to no oil. This means fat deposition in your body is greatly reduced.
Every tablespoon of oil contains 14 grams of fat and 120 calories that you add to your food.
That’s why cooking at high temperature prohibits the healthy use of monosaturated fats.
- Baked foods don’t contain partially hydrogenated oil
If you eat deep fried foods a lot, chances are that you eat them from restaurants.
Partially hydrogenated oils or trans-fats are commonly used in restaurants because they’re cheaper to produce and can endure higher temperatures while cooking.
A study showed that these oils are the cause of 1 out of 5 heart attacks, reduce the effectiveness of your immune system, and contribute to obesity.
You can bake a lot of healthy foods like fruits, potatoes, flour products, and vegetables prepared in vegetarian bakes.
The only disadvantages of baking are the following:
- A baking instrument is usually more expensive than other cooking utensils.
- A lot of skills are required for baking food and usually, it takes a lot of practice.
- Baking food is also very time-consuming compared to steaming and other methods.