Comfort food is traditionally eaten food (which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it), or simply provides the consumer a familiar meal, soft in consistency, and rich in calories, nutrients, or both. The nostalgic element most comfort food has, may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture. Many comfort foods are flavorful; some may also be easily prepared.
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.
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.
Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and soupy or with a soft texture. Some Indonesian comfort foods 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:
^Locher, Julie L.; Yoels, William C.; Maurer, Donna; Van Ells, Jillian (2005). "Comfort Foods: An Exploratory Journey into the Social and Emotional Significance of Food". Food and Foodways13 (4): 273–97. doi:10.1080/07409710500334509.
^Dallman, Mary F.; Pecoraro, Norman C.; La Fleur, Susanne E. (2005). "Chronic stress and comfort foods: Self-medication and abdominal obesity". Brain, Behavior, and Immunity19 (4): 275–80. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2004.11.004. PMID15944067.