Rainy days got you dreaming of piping hot paranthas or decadent pastries? Don't blame yourself, science says it's not just your stomach rumbling! Dive into the fascinating psychology behind our cravings and discover why wet weather triggers a symphony of comfort food desires. From mood-boosting ingredients to nostalgic memories, unlock the secrets of your rainy-day cravings and learn how to satisfy them (deliciously!) the next time the clouds unleash themselves.
The brain boost
There is something comforting and relaxing about seeing the rain, even if we actively don’t want to go out and get drenched, as experts explain. There could be two feelings on a rainy day: You could either feel relaxed and drowsy, or you feel trapped indoors, explains Ayesha Rahman, a clinical dietician.
“As we are inside the house, we crave for certain foods as we are relaxed. There is no hustle. You are working from home and so you get into a comfortable mood. So, you look for food that makes you feel good. On the other hand, a person can also feel trapped indoors, so they want to eat food that makes them feel comfortable, and safe. So, this craving could be psychological and environmental,” explains Rahman.
During the rainy weather, there is often an increase in the release of serotonin, the ‘happiness hormone’ which gets a boost at this time. This often leads to a feeling of comfort and relaxation, she says. Our brain seeks to maintain this sense of well-being and does so by seeking out foods that naturally release dopamine, which is a joy-inducing neurotransmitter.
The craving for carbs
According to Dubai-based clinical psychologist Ritasha Varsani, our environment has a profound impact on our brain chemistry. As there is a lack of sunlight, the levels of serotonin see a dip. The dearth of sunlight also affects the production of Vitamin D in the body.
The body sets about trying to set these deficiencies right and begins to crave carbohydrates, as it boosts our serotonin levels. However, this surge is rather brief, which is why, we keep craving more food, she explains. “So, we help ourselves to soups, deep fried snacks and stews, that boost also the production of dopamine,” explains Varsani.
Moreover, there is also a pleasure in tasting crunchy snacks, especially, and they provide us with comfort in cold and windy weather, explains Michelle Leigh, an Abu Dhabi-based British clinical psychologist.
The rain evokes a sense of nostalgia
Somehow, the rain can take you back to the past. For Diya Karthik, a Dubai-based homemaker, it reminds her of the days when she watched the rains with her grandmother back in Kerala, while sitting on the steps of their house, and eating plates of banana chips. On the other hand, Stephanie Cole, a British Dubai-based marketing intern, tells me that she is reminded of the warm mutton soup that her mother used to make, whenever it rained.
There’s power in nostalgia. As Laxmi Saranya, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist explains, for many, rain is associated with good memories, and mostly food, from childhood. The mood is somewhat soothed, she explains. And so, when we are indoors and unable to go anywhere, we often find ourselves wandering in old recollections. So, we are further encouraged to eat the comfort food that is associated with the rains, as they trigger nostalgia.
Food becomes an escape and offers an inexplicable security to a person, the experts say in consensus.
Keeping ourselves warm with crispy, or spicy foods
It’s cold and rainy, and ice-cream for once, isn’t the solution, except perhaps in Seoul. So, our minds instantly turn to something warm, like a delicious stew. “When we eat warm food in damp weather, it regulates our body temperature. Once we eat these warm foods, our body temperature increases, which helps us to feel warmer in the cold weather,” says Varsani.
Once we eat these hot foods, our body temperature increases, which helps us to feel warmer in the cold weather...
The spicier, the better. Our craving for spicy food is far intensified during the rains. According to Leigh, some foods contain capsaicin, a compound that tricks our nerve receptors in the mouth into thinking that we have eaten something hot. And so, we sweat, and this releases dopamine into the bloodstream. So, on that note, you can enjoy that extra helping of spicy chutney with your samosas!
The water retention and humidity
It’s rainy, but it also gets humid.
According to Rahman, during the rains, the humidity in the air increases. Our bodies begin to retain more water, which leads to feelings of annoyance and discomfort. And so, as a response, we look to eat more salty and savoury foods. When we eat such foods, it’s our body’s way of restoring the balance of our electrolytes and alleviate water retention, explains Leigh. We also want more sweets; this is our body’s way of increasing its energy in short bursts, owing to the lethargy caused by the humidity.
Rahman has a little advice. Instead of frying food, look for alternate cooking options in the rainy weather. “You could bake, air-fry, steam, or even barbecuing. As vitamin C levels are rather less in the rainy season, and our immunity is compromised, you can add some lime juice to whatever you are eating, as that can boost your immune system,” she explains.
“Try to opt for home-cooked food, as the nutrient balance factor plays a crucial role for the health of the immune system,” she adds.
You can try roasted corn cobs with spices and butter, or a sprouts salad. Try making a grilled sandwich with vegetables, too. You can manage monsoon cravings with mindful solutions, too.