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Comfort food macaroni close up
Photograph: Andy Parsons

The science behind why comfort food is actually a thing

This is why some foods make us feel so good

Written by
Time Out editors

Ever found yourself craving Padella after a terrible argument with your boyfriend? Turns out there’s biochemistry behind it. There’s a specific part of your brain – called the nucleus accumbens – which controls the release of feelgood hormones dopamine and serotonin (triggered by drugs, sex and tasty food). ‘It manages our impulses,’ says Uxshely Carcamo, founder of The Food Therapy Clinic, ‘and makes us crave foods that give us that hit of short-term pleasure.’

What kinds of foods do this? Carbohydrates – which help with hormone production – and fats. (Apologies to your cholesterol levels.) But that’s not all. There’s also a distinct psychological link between sinking your face into pasta and feeling content, explains Carcamo. ‘Our brain likes to make associations between certain smells, tastes and periods of time. So foods can often trigger happy memories of childhood,’ she says. ‘If we were rewarded with ice cream when we were younger, our brains can form an association between the taste and the feeling we got as a child and covet it again.’

So, yeah, it turns out comfort food is a big dose of hormone-making carbohydrates and brain-tricking nostalgia all wrapped up in one chemically induced kick. Mmm... Just like mama used to make.

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