MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Whether it’s chewy and gooey or crunchy and savory, many of us reach for certain foods to make us feel better.

Our appetite for comfort foods can lead to unwanted weight gain.

But despite our cravings for sweets, like cookies and candy, or warm foods, like mac and cheese, new research seems to show there’s no emotional benefit to eating those kinds of foods.

WCCO took a look at the University of Minnesota study on comfort foods that’s getting national attention.

Shoppers at Kowalski’s Market in St. Paul shared what they like to eat to boost their mood when they’re feeling down.

“Macaroni and cheese or french fries,” one woman said.

“Chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate kisses,” another said.

Researchers wanted to know whether giving people certain foods would improve their mood.

They took 100 people and showed them scenes from depressing movies. Then they divided them up and gave each group a different type of food

Later, a mood questionnaire revealed there was no real difference among the groups who ate feel-good foods, instead of healthy snacks–like nuts, popcorn and granola bars–or no food at all.

It’s a finding that some find questionable.

“It makes people feel loved,” Kristin Skare said. “It reminds them of home. It reminds them of grandma or maybe mom, and so I think there are a lot of emotional benefits for it.”

“I think that sometimes statistics are misleading, and I’d want them to do further research,” Linda Strader said.

The study was funded by NASA, which is trying to find ways to improve the mood and health of astronauts on space missions.

Space is stressful, and the food options limited, so astronauts tend to lose weight.

Shoppers said they’ll keep buying what they think spreads joy.

“My kids–they love the macaroni and cheese,” Nick Coleman said. “I can’t stand macaroni and cheese, but when they glop that in a bowl and they are eating it up, they know that they’re loved.”

The study concluded that we believe comfort foods provide us with some type of mood benefits, but there’s really no difference from eating other foods or no food at all.

It also found that women tend to prefer sweets, and men identify more savory, hearty foods as comfort foods.

All the details of the study are published in the journal Health Psychology.

 

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