Why is Pizza The Best Comfort Food?
While it would be pretentious to award pizza as America’s number one comfort food without an appropriate census count, pizza being on the shortlist of America’s favorite foods should not be a shocking discovery. And we can all agree that pizza can, in fact, be classified as comfort food. It’s warm, cheesy, and we usually have the privilege of picking our own toppings when it comes to pizza, where sometimes other dishes are less customizable.
Let’s not forget that pizza is often the most suitable choice at almost every occasion, from winning a sports game to a broken heart. With all this in mind, it’s actually hard to think of a reason why pizza isn’t the best comfort food. It very well could be.
What Are Comfort Foods
The phrase “comfort food” was added to the Oxford English dictionary in 1977 to describe foods that bring solace. Originally, the meaning was related back to home cooking and childhood favorites. Yet, your favorite lady from your afternoon soap opera doesn’t churn the ice cream she eats after a bad breakup. She brings it from the supermarket and hides it in the freezer until the opportunity arises.
In reality, there are a variety of foods that bring us comfort, whether they are bought at a store or made in our kitchens. The real benefit of comfort food is emotional. We eat comfort foods based on trustworthy associations we have with the act.
For one, eating comfort foods typically triggers the happy chemicals in our brain. When we eat comfort foods, we feel like we are being rewarded, and our minds act accordingly. Tasty foods have been found to activate the same regions of the brain that are switched on in drug addiction cases. Sometimes the anticipation of eating the food alone is enough to get our brains whirling in an exciting frenzy.
People also use comfort foods to self medicate. We know it feels good, so if we’re ever in a high-stress or painful situation, it’s great to know that a simple indulgence can put our minds at ease. Emotional eating as a coping mechanism can have both positive and negative outcomes. Those with negative feelings tend to indulge in less nutritious foods. Those with positive feelings are inclined to do the opposite. In either situation, moderation is key to responsible indulging.
Comfort foods offer familial associations as well. One study demonstrated that people with strong healthy relationships were able to rank comfort foods higher on a taste scale than those who didn’t. In other words, people who did not have secure attachment styles did not feel the same enjoyment in so-called comfort foods as others. Comfort foods are largely defined by the people who partake in them. Cultural foods remind us of a family get together and pizza and candy can remind us of a cherished childhood party.
What Makes Pizza So Comforting?
The stats on favorite foods in America are sliced up pretty sparsely. Still, most Americans list pizza as their favorite at 15 percent, which is twice as many likes as any other food choice listed. Ice cream and chocolate tied for second, each garnering 7 percent, followed by macaroni and cheese and then chips, which earned 5 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Pizza topped the majority of the poll’s (conducted by Harris) demographic categories (gender, location, and age) save for one. Only adults aged 70 or older did not choose pizza as their favorite comfort food, instead ice cream took the top spot.
Though some people are opposed to the idea of pineapple on pizza, the very fact that we’re at liberty to have that option in the first place makes it obvious why pizza is a universal love. We have no option but to thoroughly appreciate a dish that allows for the mixture of sweet and salty. Even your basic pizza can easily utilize all the major food groups. Vegetables include toppings like mushrooms and olives. Tomato is considered a fruit now, and that’s a given on most pizzas. Cheese fulfills our dairy needs. The dough itself serves as a base grain. Pepperoni, sausage, or even a vegetarian substitute can be classified as meat. Oils, which have an important position with the rest of the food groups, are clearly visible on any fresh slice.
Besides the tastes that combine effortlessly to make a delicious pizza, the texture of the pie complements its flavor. A crisp crust laid rigidly under a layer of lackadaisical gooey and chewy cheese is very demanding to the tongue and teeth, but in a good way. The sauce placating our palates with a wet ingredient, but not so lacking in thickness to be off putting, is the cherry on top,
The shallow bits of our personalities only want to eat something that looks as good as it tastes and pizza fits the bill. A classic pizza is eternally designed with an orange-cream crust brazen with olive oil. This small sector of triangle (or pie) is accompanied by a rustic red aura credited to a saucy marinara foundation. Of course this is topped with a white, bronze-like coat of cheese.
Pizza is quite literally linked with symptoms of addiction. As scary as that sounds, if we had the option to choose an outlet for our addictive behaviours, pizza is probably a good choice.
The psychological response to pizza’s ingredient combinations is partially explained by the fact that highly processed foods like pizza, with added amounts of fat, refined carbohydrates, and salt, are most associated with behavioral indications of addiction such as loss of control over consumption, cravings, and continued consumption.
A clinical psychologist noted that its addictive quality could be allied with its reward potential. Seeing as the combination of ingredients found in pizza does not occur organically in nature, our reward system increases its effectiveness for satiety.
A Matter of Preference
The nice thing about pizza is that it can be optimized for your personal preferences. Some people like thin crust. Some people like thick crust. Most people don’t like anchovies but some do. Go halfies. There’s also a wide range of pizza styles. A slice in New York City is nothing like a Chicago-style deep dish. And both of those are nothing like a New Jersey tomato pie or a Detroit style pie. So don’t fret, you have a lot of options.
Sharing Is Caring
Buying pizza is not like any other selfish food indulgence. When you buy a pie with friends you are opting for a shared experience. Ordering pizza with family or friends requires social compromise and an understanding of friendship. And once you finally get to enjoy a pie together everyone is brought a little closer.
The Pizza Experience
When you think of pizza you think of gathering with friends and family enjoying a delicious meal, celebrating a special event or watching a football game. It is a “community coming together” type of food and you would be hard pressed to think of any other food that replicates that experience. Pizza is a fun food. It is portable and you don’t have to sit down and be formal. Pizza is a party.
Can Pizza Be Good For You?
For some reason many people look to pizza as a comfort food or guilty pleasure. This is likely because we associate indulgence with negative perceptions about our bodies and assumptions about health. If we were knowledgeable, however, we’d realize this is not the case. Let’s not villainize the things we like.
Contrary to popular belief, pizza can play a healthy role in a balanced diet. Tomatoes, for example, contain lycopene. Lycopene can be found in other vivid red fruits like raspberries and strawberries. This antioxidant lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure. Cooked tomatoes, as opposed to fresh tomatoes, let the body absorb more lycopene. One tablespoon of pizza sauce has the equivalent amount of lycopene as half a cup of cherry tomatoes (2000 micrograms).
Pizza is loaded with dairy because pizzerias know we love cheese. Dairy items like cheese are excellent sources of calcium, which is vital for your bones.
Plus, vegetables are go-to toppings for most pizza lovers. Each vegetable contains an abundance of micronutrients including vitamins and minerals that contribute to your immune system, energy levels, and blood clotting. The more vegetables you consume, the more micronutrients you’ll gobble up as well.
Special occasions always call for some divergence from your normal diet. Diets are best maintained when they’re flexible and optimized for you. Restricting yourself from a slice of pizza because it has a couple too many carbs may only stress you out in the end and lead to a worse indulgence later. Your health is determined by the average of your food and fitness choices. Having a slice (or 2) here and there won’t stop you from living a healthy lifestyle.
Pizza can also be good for you in an emotional sense. Because it’s meant to be shared, pizza encourages social interaction which can boost your confidence and self esteem. There’s nothing quite like gathering some of your closest friends around some pizza pies after a long day.
Is Comfort Food Just For Bad Days?
You shouldn’t just reserve comfort food for bad days. We already know that comfort food has a positive effect on our general well being. Then why deny ourselves? Waiting around for something tragic to happen before we seek out the things that bring us comfort seems like a horrible way to practice self-care and self-love everyday.
In lieu of a bad day and the specificities of an unfortunate event, as humans we’re still prone to negative emotions. Food has a profound effect on our happiness. Our mood has a direct response to the consumption of fatty acids. Fatty acids like fats and oils are common attributes of comfort foods, like pizza and macaroni and cheese.
A clinical study revealed that besides taste or emotional attachment, comfort foods’ impact is deeply physiological. Our stomach communicates with our brains when we eat comfort food and compels us to be more content and less sad.
Areas of the brain related to mood were positively activated by fatty acids. The exact biological process of this phenomenon is unknown. But it is clear that a chemical reaction occurs post digestion. Evolution has provided us with a means to counteract anxious and depressive feelings with a mere indulgence of our favorite foods.
Visit TJ’s Take and Bake Pizza
We’ve established many reasons why pizza is the best comfort food without the need for a census collector. Pizza is a shoulder to cry on during the bad times and a party hat for the good times. We’re addicted to the stuff….and for a good reason. There’s nothing quite like it. Mother Nature’s cooking doesn’t have the same kick and nothing else is worthy of competition.
With an amalgamation of flavors, textures that go together like puzzle pieces, an enticing color scheme, a sense of insatiability….pizza makes the most uncomfortable situations comfortable. If you’re anything like the majority of Americans who love pizza, then you’re craving a slice right now and we are ready to serve you. Grab a pie of your favorite comfort food and load it up with your favorite comfort toppings!