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The Science Of Comfort Food

Photo caption: A potful of mac n' cheese.

Photo credit: Gabriel Li / Flickr

A potful of mac n' cheese.


Jordan Troisi, assistant professor of psychology, Sewanee, The University of The South

Katie Ferraro, nutrition lecturer, San Diego State University and Miramar College


Any good meal can comfort hunger. But when it comes to those meals we call "comfort food," it means something more than just feeling full, said Jordan Troisi, lead author of a report about comfort food.

Kay Snavely, who reminisced about her favorite comfort foods while dining at Great Maple in Hillcrest, said they start with smells she remembers from returning home from school as a little girl.

"The peaches had ripened on our tree, and sometimes I could smell my mother's homemade peach cobbler and the cinnamon and the spices in it," Snavely said. "It was awesome."

Troisi, an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee, The University of The South in Tennessee, said emotion is tied to comfort food.

"What we're talking about here are people's learned associations, their memories that they have with significant others and feeling as though they're taken care of," Troisi said. "I think that emotional component seems to center around feeling connected to other individuals. I think these are important features of considering a food to be a comfort food."

Troisi said those surveyed described a range of foods as comfort food.

“Our participants seem to identify all kinds of food,” Troisi said. “It doesn’t seem we’re narrowing it down to any one kind of food.”

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