Why do we eat delicious comfort food when we’re sad? It might seem obvious, after all, comfort is in the name. But craving a specific type of food when you’re sad — namely calorie-rich, energy-dense, delectably savory options — is all too common among people of all ages.
So, what is the real reason behind why you type in “barbecue restaurant near me” when you’re feeling down? Science has the answer.
Our brains crave it
The primary reason we crave savory, delicious comfort food is the impact it has on our brains. When we eat because we’re emotional, we hope to drown out feelings of negativity, boredom, loneliness, or sadness. Eating savory “barbecue near me” will typically make you feel better because of the reward centers in your brain.
When you enjoy a food — and who doesn’t enjoy comfort food? — the regions of our brain pertaining to reward and pleasure are activated. This, in turn, will increase the feelings of pleasure and result in lower levels of stress and tension.
Comfort foods are typically served on happy, celebratory occasions. After all, you hardly ever see a sad person enjoying a rack of delicious ribs. When you’re feeling bummed, you might want to recreate feelings of happiness and joy. One of the best ways to do that is by engaging in activities that directly impact your senses.
Taste and smell are particularly strong sources for nostalgia. The olfactory bulbs are tied closely with the amygdala and hippocampus, two parts of the brain that are strongly associated with memory and emotion. Comparatively, the senses of touch, sight, and sound don’t pass through these important brain areas.
Eating inherently relies on taste and smell. You might find yourself transported to happier times at that “barbecue restaurant near me” by eating the best barbecue in Ohio.
Comfort food is just one of the many ways we cope with feelings of sadness or boredom. Luckily, it’s also one of the best foods to eat during the happiest times in our life, like an office party or holiday party. Unlike other food options, the bbq industry witnesses strong business each year according to a 2017 survey by the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association. Americans simply love our favorite comfort foods, in good times and bad.