Around this time of year (at least in Canada anyway) when the weather gets colder, it’s easy to turn to comfort foods. There are lots of comfort foods, bread, pasta, sugary cakes, and rich chocolate. Even between cultures comfort foods exist, in Germany you may turn to heavy meats, in India a buttery curry. Across the board most comfort foods include high sugar content, and carbohydrate. Whatever you consider to be a “comfort food,” what is it that’s actually comforting us in our time of need?
At the root of the these foods is the positive association from childhood, and the comfort you received from the people who served you the food. You remember going to the cupcake shop with you Grandma on Sundays, the fragrant smells of butter, the bright colors of frosting all create this memory in your mind of comfort. This has been proven to transfer into adulthood, and before you know it you’re shoving cupcakes in your face seeking that same euphoric feeling.
“Sugar and starch spur serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to increase a sense of well-being. (It’s what makes Prozac work.) Salty foods spur oxytocin, aka the “cuddle chemical,” a hormone that is also spiked by hugs and orgasm.”
Just like the shame that comes from waking up next to someone you would never think to go home normally (we’ve all been there), the same shocking reality can occur when you “wake up” from your euphoric nibble fest to discover you just indulged in a hoagie, something you normally would never dream of ingesting.
Comfort foods do not have to be shameful though. If we allow ourselves to be comforted once and a while by a nostalgic indulgence, and enjoy it, it can be a very healthy thing. My favorite comfort food personally is corn bread. Growing up in Nova Scotia we ate a lot of stews and soups, so I now cannot eat soup without some sort of biscuit. Here’s my favorite corn bread recipe with a little twist courtesy of Chobani yogurt. By replacing the buttermilk in this recipe with protein packed Greek yogurt, I can enjoy my comfort food a little more often!
Good Old Fashioned Corn Bread (GF)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or muffin tins with 2 tablespoons butter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, honey, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and Greek yogurt; whisk in remaining butter. Stir cornmeal mixture into yogurt mixture just until moistened. (Do not overmix.)
- Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle pumpkin seeds over top if desired, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan at least 15 minutes before inverting and slicing.
Recipe adapted from here.