Woman and daughter making breakfast. Black and white image.
The Scientific Reason Nostalgic Foods Are Having A Resurgence In 2023
By Crystal Antonace
Nostalgia triggers four sensations in the brain: memory, self-focused contemplation, emotional management, and positivity. These feelings can impact our food choices.
Eating triggers more than one of the five senses and can invoke the Proust effect, a complex experience triggered by a food or scent that ignites a past memory.
In a 2020 interview, clinical psychologist Valentina Stoycheva explained that nostalgia helps anchor you when you feel uneasy or dysregulated.
As Stoycheva put it, childhood objects (and, for the purposes of this piece, food) inherently increase "your ability to self-soothe during a stressful time."
We may connect foods to distinct memories, which gives them varying degrees of power over our emotions. Consuming childhood foods can mirror self-care during stressful times.
Professor Susan Whitborne said, "Food memories feel so nostalgic because there's all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food." It becomes "almost symbolic."
With rising prices, climate change, and the fear of the unknown, many are looking for new ways to cope — possibly by enjoying childhood foods to feel connected to a different time.
A 2006 study showed that nostalgia can also push us to be more outgoing and experience more internal positivity, meaning nostalgic foods can positively impact us as people.