The Healing Magic of Comfort Foods


Jordan Yanowitz, Staff Writer

Food can be an agent of comfort. Sinking our teeth into a delightful treat can immediately soothe our bodies from head to toe. Whether it’s a gooey grilled cheese after a long day at school or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream after a breakup, food can instantaneously shift one’s mood. Food can create a sensation of euphoria that is hard to ignore; it has a unique power to transport us to a surreal state of mine. But why do we feel this way after enjoying a well-deserved meal? Why do we crave specific foods when we are upset?

The answer lies in the function of our brain’s reward system and how certain foods can evoke specific memories within us. When eaten, comfort foods allow us to gain a sense of peace and safety. These foods heighten our mood by stimulating our brain’s reward system. Our brain releases dopamine, a hormone associated with pleasure and reward. The concept of the phenomenon is similar to the sensation we feel when we get a like on a social media post or when someone compliments our outfit. It is an almost immediate response that makes you feel temporarily better, forcing you to crave more to keep up with that satisfying feeling. Some scientists even believe that just thinking about a certain comfort food alone can trigger dopamine. Comfort foods are practically a form of self-medication; a simple way to lift our spirits.

In addition to the biological factors, comfort foods can also evoke specific memories within us that make us feel happy. Foods with specific smells or tastes can bring you back to specific fond moments in your life that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Maybe the smell of popcorn reminds you of the time when you went to the movies with your best buds, or maybe the taste of an apple reminds you of going apple picking with your family. These foods can prompt you to recall memories from your past that immediately renders you content. You may frequently seek comfort foods when you feel down because you know that they will cheer you right back up. Comfort food is a constant we can have in our lives––something we can always rely on. That is the beauty of it, a singular food that can bring back a warm memory and completely change our mood.

The food that brings me this instant feeling of utter serenity is a bite of one of my warm chocolate chip cookies filled with sweet chocolate morsels and a pinch of salt. This food holds a special place in my heart because I love the process that goes into making it. Whenever I need consolation, I decide to bake these delicacies and the outcome never disappoints. Yet, I wonder, what are other people’s comfort foods? We all have one. Even if you aren’t sure what your comfort food is, you might subconsciously reach for a mouth-watering Cheez-It every time you cry during a sad movie. At THS, students have their own unique comfort foods that provide them with a sense of community and connection. Charley Levine (’25) said “[her] father’s home-cooked meals” provide her with a feeling of community. She finds that “there is something invaluable about a meal prepared and manifested with love. Especially when pizza is on the menu, my siblings and I rush to the kitchen eager to indulge.” Her father’s cooking provides her with a feeling of connection with her family as one simple meal can bring them closer together. For Joe Cogan (’25), a simple steak is comforting “because I always had it with my grandpa before he passed away.” He remembered “eating the steak together and bonding over our shared love of something.” It is incredible how foods can hold such important places in our lives. They can remind us of loved ones and bring us together, all the while granting us solace.

We all have a comfort food, whether it connects to a memory close to heart or is simply a taste you enjoy. So the next time you need something to brighten your day, allow yourself to indulge in your favorite treat. Sometimes the best medicine comes in the form of a delicious meal.