If you’ve ever had a deep craving for something from your childhood, or a very specific dish comes to mind when you read the words comfort food, then you’re probably familiar with the link between food and nostalgia.
Eating food for memory improvement or sinking back into some warm, comforting memories are two fascinating ways our culture is currently exploring the connection between food and memory. This article will explore both.
One of the reasons that interest in nostalgia and comfort food has increased so much is because of the exciting new scientific research discovering how beneficial it can be for you to experience and cultivate nostalgia in your life. Utilized in the right way, nostalgia can help you maintain emotional balance and motivation to help you get through each day with a smile on your face. And food is a particularly potent approach to do so!
Food for Memory Boosting
In order to truly maximize the benefits of using your positive memories and ability to experience nostalgia to improve your life, you first need to make sure you’re nourishing your brain. Having the right foods in your diet is the foundational step to achieving that goal.
Certain foods are well known to help give your brain and your memory a boost. These include:
This is a top brain food because it is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It can help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
When you drink coffee, you can often experience a big internal boost, including improved mood, alertness, and concentration. It also is full of antioxidants, which are great for overall and brain health.
This is a ginger-like root that can be added to all kinds of recipes. It contains curcumin, which has been shown to improve memory and ease depression.
Nuts are a great snack for many reasons, but a recent 2014 study has also suggested that it can have powerful cognitive benefits. They are also a great source of protein
If your parents ever told you that you should eat your broccoli, they were right. Broccoli is very high in Vitamin K, which has been shown to improve the memory of older adults. Broccoli also has a lot of anti-inflammatory effects that can protect against brain damage.
Food For Nostalgic Memories
When you’re back home, are there certain foods or restaurants that you can’t wait to visit? Or if you visit your favorite local festival, is there a certain dessert you’re always dying to try? These experiences demonstrate the everyday phenomenon of food nostalgia.
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Scientific research is showing that there is a unique link between our memories and the food that we eat. When we eat foods at certain events or at certain times of the year, we can create powerful associations between that food and our good feelings. These good memories can alter our evaluation of how good a food is, and can also powerfully alter our mood.
Comfort food has been shown in research to be particularly valuable in reducing our sense of loneliness and feelings of isolation. In the study, when individuals who had a strong social network, they chose comfort food when feeling isolated.
Since eating is so often a communal activity, our favorite foods can often trigger memories of times when we felt a sense of connection and belonging. Another study in 2015 showed that you don’t even have to eat the foods to have this experience!
In that study, which was conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University, individuals were asked to link certain aromas to certain foods. It was shown that the positive effects of eating comfort food could be mimicked even by just smelling the aroma of your favorite food.
Exploring Comfort Food
Sometimes if it’s been a while since we’ve changed up our diet or been back to the places where we ate when we were younger, we can become disconnected from the foods for memory recall that work best for us. If you’re not sure what your comfort foods are, consider asking your parents, siblings, or friends that you used to eat with when you were a child. Ask them what their favorite foods were.
Or, visit your favorite restaurant growing up or try to recreate an old recipe that you haven’t tried in a long time. You may very well be surprised at how comforting it is to taste the foods from your past.
For some people, the foods that they consider comfort foods are not particularly healthy. If you already know what your comfort food is but feel like it just doesn’t fit into your diet, there are options.
Nowadays, there is access to thousands of healthy recipes on the internet. Many creative chefs are discovering new ways to replace ingredients or alter food preparations in a way that preserves the taste of a dish but increases its nutritional value.
If you have a favorite comfort food, look for healthier versions of the recipe online and experiment! You can often find great substitutions so that you can enjoy your comfort food without the guilt.
There’s another great way to incorporate comfort foods into your life: through aromatherapy. With the right combination of essential oils, you can capture the essence of a dish and allow yourself to experience the comfort of your favorite dish without consuming any calories.
Food for Memory
Just like the science around nostalgia is new, the research about the links between food and memory is also fresh. There’s still so much more to explore. But one of the most important points is that if you keep your memory sharp and you nurture positive nostalgic experiences with your food, you can experience many great benefits in your life.
If you find yourself wanting to experience a little extra nostalgia, try MONQ’s Pumpkin Spice or Cheer blends. Both of these blends have been scientifically crafted to specifically call upon the scents and flavors of holidays past.
PhotoCredits: g-stockstudio/shutterstock.com, AfricaStudio/shutterstock.com, RossHelen/shutterstock.com, LakovFilimonov/shutterstock.com