Why We Crave Comfort Food

Last year's winter in NYC was like an abusive stepfather; every time you thought it was over he hit you with another full-on 5ft of snow. Thanks, "Dad."

During winter in New York, the sun goes down around 4 PM. That means you may often find yourself to work when it's barely light out and coming home in the dark. It's like being trapped in prison with no windows or in the movie Tron... Or in a prison with no windows and a TV that only plays Tron!

Vitamin D, which we get naturally from the sun and from food, regulates calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and helps us build strong bones. It also makes us happier and eases depression. Vitamin D deficiencies are common, and more so in the winter as we naturally spend less time soaking up the rays.

The point is that winter is brutal! It even has its own syndrome! No wonder our bodies crave comfort food during the time of year when you really want to experience taste, flavors and sensations from simply eating. Heavy, grounding, thick, dense, bitter; these things distract from Old Man Winter and make you feel happy.

Food is more than just nourishment for the body. We often fulfill cravings for other things that have been stored in our bodies in the form of muscle memory and are often activated by an experience related to food. Hot waffles on a Saturday, thick veggie chili on a cold evening...you get the point.

The chemical connections between our brains and bodies are known as neurotransmitters. There are two neurotransmitters responsible for the majority of our moods. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate our bodies and minds, while inhibitory neurotransmitters calm them back down.

Wait wait, what does this medical jargon have to do with food? Well certain food releases the chemicals that trigger these neurotransmitters, mainly endorphins and serotonin—chemicals that make us feel good. These foods are often our comfort foods (hello, chocolate), and as a result, we crave them because we want the blissed out feeling we associate with them.

Some Eastern philosophies say that our natural state is bliss and eternal happiness. It's good to know you can eat your way to bliss three times a day.