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Comfort food is food prepared traditionally, that may have a nostalgic or sentimental appeal, or simply provide an easy-to-eat, easy-to-digest meal rich in calories, nutrients, or both. Comfort foods may be foods that have a nostalgic element either to an individual or a specific culture. Many comfort foods are flavorful and easily eaten, having soft consistencies.
Comfort foods may be consumed to positively pique emotions, to relieve negative psychological effects or to increase positive feelings. The term was first used, according to Webster's Dictionary, in 1977.
One study divided college-students' comfort-food identifications into four categories (nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods) with a special emphasis on the deliberate selection of particular foods to modify mood or effect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.
The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup), while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt.
Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress, and consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States. The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.
Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.
A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.
American comfort foods include: Baked beans, Apple pie, Clam chowder, Chicken noodle soup, Casseroles, and other warm, inviting foods. Folllowing a reader's opinion poll by About.com, these foods were listed as the most common comfort foods by American respondents:
One recent development, as chefs have explored the roots of American cuisine and tried to define it as a unique style, is the advent of fine dining comfort food restaurants that feature more careful cooking and presentation, higher quality and fresh organic ingredients, along with consequently higher prices.
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Some of popular Indonesian food are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, soupy and have soft texture. Some Indonesian comfort food are traditional Indonesian food and some are derived from Chinese influences. For some Indonesians, especially those who are abroad, comfort food might also be a certain brand or type of Indonesian instant noodle, such as Indomie Mi goreng. Indonesian comfort foods include:
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