What's the one thing that'll always be there for you after a long, stressful day? According to a new poll, there's a clear answer.
Pizza is the number one comfort food Americans turn to for stress relief, according to a recent online survey of 2,252 adults conducted by The Harris Poll. Chocolate, ice cream, mac and cheese, and potato chips all scored high on the list as well.
Some 67 percent of Americans report eating comfort food when feeling down, according to this same poll.
It's called comfort food for a reason: Eating food is often an emotional experience. A 2015 University at Buffalo study found that for many, eating can make them feel less alone. The research suggests that people with strong social connections in particular enjoy the taste of comfort food when they experience feelings of isolation.
“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children," Shira Gabriel, one of the study's authors, said in a news release. "As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance that you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation."
It makes sense, then, that pizza ranks highest on the list of Americans' favorite comfort foods. In the U.S., pizza is a staple of children's events, from birthday parties to school celebrations.
But nostalgia alone doesn't fully explain our love for the saucy pie. There's also chemistry: The American Chemical Society says pizza is "the food of the gods" because of the highly palatable mix of the acidic tomato sauce, stringy mozzarella and a crust that's browned by cooking.
Beyond straight up deliciousness, pizza has a high concentration of the stuff that revs us up -- sugar and fat, primarily -- and that the body finds so irresistible. A research team at the University of Michigan found pizza to be the most "addictive food," though we don't really like that term.
There's nothing wrong with turning to comfort food every now and again, as long as it makes you feel good -- and not out of control. You can have your pizza and eat it, too. If you want the comforting taste of a slice, but are trying to be a little bit healthier, consider loading the pie with vegetables, or prioritizing the side salad.
That said, if you're having a stress attack, you could do better. Try to take a pause and find something else -- like exercise, journaling or talking to a friend -- to take the edge off.
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