We all have our own individual take on the best comfort food, based on our own personal history as well as our physiology. With that said, Brian Wansink (author of the book Mindless Eating) researched 1,004 Americans to find out what comforts them the most:
“Although potato chips topped the list, 40 percent of the favorite comfort foods mentioned were actually fairly healthy. They were pasta, meats, soups, main dishes, casseroles and so on. These people not only wanted a great-for-the-moment taste of fat, salt or sugar, they also wanted to tap into the psychological comfort that these foods provided and the memories linked to them. Comfort foods are not always indulgent. They are the foods that not only feed our body, but also the soul.”
(Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating)
Another interesting twist is that a man’s choice of a favorite comfort food varies considerably from a woman’s choice. Most men listed “meal-like” items on their comfort food list whereas women tended to opt for chocolate and sweets and various snack foods. The one commonality on both of their lists? Ice cream, which seems to comfort both sexes equally!
Why the difference? Men felt “taken care of” or “pampered” when fed their favorite comfort meal, with associations of being the center of attention by either their mom or wife. Women, on the other hand, associated those same comfort meals with preparation and work. They’d much prefer to have a break from the kitchen and rip open a box of chocolates instead. Comfort meant not having to do any preparation or clean up!