When you feel you need a bit of a lift, do you crave foods like ice cream, chocolate pudding or sausage and mash? Well there may be a good reason why. While comfort eating may not be good for your waistline, it really does make you feel better, say US psychologists.
Writing in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers claim comfort foods remind you of your childhood, which makes you feel less lonely. They ran a series of experiments with volunteers to find out if food can boost your mood in the same way browsing through family photos or watching your favourite TV programme can.
By asking volunteers to write about a stressful situation - an argument with a friend or close family member - and then about the experience of eating typical comfort foods, they then gave them a questionnaire to assess how lonely they felt.
Unsurprisingly, when the volunteers wrote about the conflict with someone they felt close to, their loneliness scores increased. But after writing about eating comfort food, the volunteers who had already been assessed as secure in their everyday relationships felt less lonely, the researchers explain.
If the experts are right, just thinking about a time when you tucked in to a toasted bacon and tomato ketchup sandwich or a strawberry jam doughnut could boost your mood and make you feel less isolated. So no wonder so many of us turn to stodgy, sugary foods when we feel down.
What's your favourite comfort food, and how do you feel after you eat it? Would just thinking about eating it have the same effect?