Ever wondered why you crave specific foods when you’re feeling down or in the dumps? Those “comfort foods,” as they call them. You know, those heaping mounds of mashed potatoes, cheese-oozing lasagnas or oversized portions of poutine that no human should consume in one specific sitting?
Turns out the reason we crave these foods is because of the positive associations they bring to someone stemming from our childhoods.
New research from the University of Buffalo says that we crave specific foods when we’re sad because of our positive relationship with the person who first made or gave that food to us as kids.
“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation,” psychologist Shira Gabriel explained in a release from the university. “It can be understood as straight-up classical conditioning.”
Perhaps Sheldon was onto something when he used Pavlov’s theory and chocolate to train Penny on The Big Bang Theory after all.
So that explains why we usually crave home-cooked meals from our moms or dads on our off days. It could also explains why comfort food varies so much around the world — the foods we crave tend to be the ones we grew up eating.
Before you go eating all of the cheesecake, however, remember that just because a food might bring comfort to your psychological well-being doesn’t mean that it’s friendly on the hips. Or heart.
“Although comfort food will never break your heart, it might destroy your diet,” Gabriel adds.