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This Takeaway Meal Will Make You Happier, According To Science

takeaway graphic food makes us happiest e1621272380874

In the past 90 days, searches relating to ordering takeaways have increased by up to 3,400%! But why are millions of us turning to takeaways at the end of the week?

Well, Lee Chambers, Wellbeing Consultant, explains that ‘food has a powerful nostalgic element, taking us back to positive times in our lives, times with less responsibility and memories of people we enjoyed food with’.

So, in a bid to reveal which takeaway boosts our serotonin levels most, conducted an experiment using the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS).

The BMIS scale consists of participants rating the intensity of their positive emotions, such as happiness and liveliness, the results are then totalled to create an overall ‘happiness’ score out of 500. 

Participants’ scores were taken before eating any takeaway meal and averaged at 142 BMIS points. Their mood was then analysed after eating each takeaway to note the percentage increase in happiness.

After studying 2,158 people and their emotional reactions to 11 different takeaway meals, they can finally uncover the results!

Which takeaway food makes us happiest?

On average, found that ordering any kind of takeaway meal increases happiness by 52%!

Although, can reveal that ordering an Indian takeaway is best for your mental health as it’s shown to improve overall happiness levels by a whopping 83%.

A takeaway curry was found to raise participants’ BMIS points from 142 before eating, to 260 thanks to its intoxicating aromas and unique flavours.

Interestingly, UCLA researchers also announced that the vibrant spices in foods like turmeric have been found to boost your mood.

Sushi places in second, with participants reporting a 73% increase in happiness. Participants reported a significant boost in positive emotions as the pre-takeaway BMIS score increased from 142 to 246 after eating sushi.

In third place is one of our guilty pleasures, burgers! Unsurprisingly, tucking in to this American-style meal makes us 70% happier than we were before, increasing the BMIS score from 142 to a healthy 242 points (+100 points). 

Psychologist Lee Chambers explained that ‘comfort food is not a myth’ and ‘when we look at the brain chemicals at play, our favourite takeaway can trigger dopamine release. Even just thinking about it can stimulate this, generating a craving that we can then satisfy’!

Following in fourth and fifth place are Thai and Chinese. These takeaway treats were recorded to improve happiness levels by 64% and 58% respectively – raising their BMIS score from 142 before eating, to 233 and 225 points each.

On the other end, found that fish and chips is the takeaway option that places last. It’s shown to make participants just 18% happier than they were before eating, only improving their original BMIS score of 142 by 26 points.

Although the score is still impressive, the takeaway earned just 168 BMIS points – 92 less than the leading takeaway.

It’s a sad day for burrito lovers as Mexican takeaways improve your overall mood by just 24% and earn 177 BMIS points.

In third to last place, the study showed that ordering a kebab improves happiness levels by 27%, raising participants’ score of 142 before eating, to 181 points. 

Takeaway OptionBMIS ScorePercentage Increase in Happiness 
8Fried Chicken21048%
11Fish and Chips 16818%

Why does food make us feel better? 

Curious to learn more about the relationship between food and happiness, spoke exclusively to Lee Chambers, Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant.

“From a psychological perspective, food alters our mood through several pathways. Firstly, the idea of comfort food is not a myth; we can use food as a coping mechanism when we are feeling stressed, anxious or bored to anchor us in the present while enjoying it.

Given the turbulence of 2020 and the limitations on some forms of entertainment, food has become even more powerful in being a tool of happiness and being an experience that is certain, the same every time.

When we look at the brain chemicals at play, our favourite takeaway can trigger dopamine release. Even just thinking about it can stimulate this, generating a craving that we can then satisfy.

An elevated cortisol level can also induce a craving for foods that create a level of comfort, especially foods with higher levels of fat.

Ghrelin and leptin, our hunger hormones, can also impact our emotions and drive our eating behaviours. When we are hungry, and our blood sugar is low, we find it harder to manage our emotional regulation and balance, and this can lead to moments of becoming hangry.

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