Pleasures Of Food: Exploring Food As A Source Of Pleasure
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Food is more than a means of sustenance; it is an art, a culture, and a source of great pleasure. For many people, eating ranks among the greatest pleasures in life. Apart from making mealtimes an enjoyable experience, taking pleasure from food also contributes to several health benefits. The pleasures of food are an exquisite and gratifying experience that engages all our senses. From the moment we catch the enticing aroma wafting through the air to the tantalising sight of a beautifully plated dish, our anticipation is aroused.  

The symphony of flavours that dance on our taste buds, ranging from the sweetness of ripe fruits to the savoury umami of perfectly seasoned dishes, creates a harmonious culinary journey. Whether enjoyed alone or shared with loved ones, the pleasures of food offer emotional comfort and create unforgettable memories.  

Here are some of the specific ways that food can nourish our bodies and souls:  

  • Physical nourishment: Food provides us with the nutrients that we need to stay healthy and strong. It also gives us the energy that we need to function throughout the day. These nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.  
  • Emotional nourishment: Food can be a source of great pleasure and enjoyment. The smell, taste, and texture of food can all trigger positive emotions in our brains. Eating a delicious meal can make us feel happy, satisfied, and even loved.   
  • Social nourishment: Food can be a way for us to connect with our culture and heritage. For example, sharing a traditional meal with family and friends can be a way to strengthen our bonds and create lasting memories.  
  • Spiritual nourishment: Food can be a way for us to connect with our inner selves and our sense of purpose. For example, some people find that eating mindfully and appreciating the beauty of food can be a spiritual practise.  

Psychology Behind Eating For Pleasure  

Psychologically, the pleasure people derive from food occurs both in our mouths and in our brains. The pleasure people get from eating their food releases the ‘feel-good hormone,’ dopamine, in their brain, which promotes happiness, calmness, motivation, and focus. When brain chemistry is working properly, pleasure achieved from eating can also lead to physical benefits.  

Reportedly, when we enjoy the food, we are eating, dopamine is released, which helps in effective digestion and metabolism. Besides, eating for pleasure could promote healthier eating too. In research by the National Library of Medicine, 119 studies were examined about the connection between food enjoyment and a healthy diet. It was found that 57% of the studies found favourable associations between eating pleasure and dietary outcomes.  

Food As A Social Bond    

Moreover, the pleasure of eating food is magnified when shared with others. The act of sharing a meal fosters a sense of togetherness and strengthens bonds between individuals. Conversations flow freely, laughter fills the air, and memories are created, all while the pleasure of eating food heightens the overall experience. Food not only encourages physical comfort by providing essential nutrients, energy, and sustenance to keep us healthy and strong, but also provides emotional support.  

A satisfying meal can satiate hunger, providing a sense of physical well-being and contentment. However, food's influence goes beyond the physiological; it also has the power to soothe and console us emotionally. During times of stress, sadness, or even joy, turning to comfort foods can evoke feelings of familiarity and security, offering solace and temporary respite from life's challenges.  

A simple example is that Diwali or Eid is marked by the exchange of sweets and savoury foods among neighbours, symbolising goodwill and fostering harmony in the community. According to the study, ‘Health, Happiness, and Eating Together: What Can a Large Thai Cohort Study Tell Us’ by the National Library of Medicine, enjoying meals with others often results in an increased sense of happiness.  

Food As Cultural Exploration  

According to the study, ‘Sense of belonging: a vital mental health concept’ by the National Library of Medicine, a sense of belonging is vital for mental health. And thus, food enjoyment can play a major role here. Nothing can be more beautiful than experiencing belonging within your family or cultural heritage through food.  

Culture and tradition serve as a form of connection with ourselves and others. Reportedly, restricting or denying food that promotes a sense of connection can lead to disengagement and loneliness. Exploring various cuisines allows us to embark on a culinary journey around the world, broadening our horizons and deepening our understanding of different geographical locations and societies. For example, in West Bengal, during the monsoon, the city organises several ‘Hilsa Festivals,’ where different dishes of Hilsa are served to people at a reasonable price. People all across the country and even abroad ignore the cultural barrier and join in the festivities and food.  

Eating For Pleasure vs. Emotional Eating  

You must have heard about emotional eating. Turning to food to deal with difficult scenarios like stress, anger, or sadness often results in mindless consumption and destroys the relationship with food. Both emotional eating and eating for pleasure differ in their intent and outcomes. Emotional eating is when people use food to cope with both positive and negative emotions.  

Besides, eating for pleasure means choosing food to specifically enjoy its taste, texture, and experience. Most of the time, there is a lack of connection or disassociation with the food when people eat emotionally. Moreover, when eating for pleasure, there is usually a true connection and enjoyment you’re getting from food.