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Can eating ice-cream make you feel happy?

A survey of 2,000 respondents found that people living in the UK turn to comfort food an average of nine times per month. Curries, lasagna, and toffee pudding hit the list but what about the classic cure-all, ice cream? Pictured in countless movie and television scenes spanning decades, ice cream is a go-to for characters seeking a pick me up when they are feeling down. Generations of us have turned to a warm cup of milk to bring about relaxation and sleep in times of need. Ice cream is another delicious dairy treat that can make our lives better with the power to turn frowns upside down. 

The Science Behind the Feelings

Neuroscientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London wanted to find out if eating ice cream actually made people happier. The study used a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine to watch the reaction in participants’ brains upon swallowing a bite of vanilla ice cream. With a single swallow, the orbitofrontal cortex at the front of the brain lit up in response. This part of the brain is known for “processing” and is known to become activated when people enjoy themselves. Science has now shown what ice cream lovers have always known: a little bit of ice cream goes a long way in chasing the blues away. 

The science doesn’t stop there. Ice cream contains protein and fat, both of which our bodies need to help level our moods. On top of that, the amino acids you take in when eating ice cream, such as tryptophan, are known to increase serotonin production. That leaves us feeling calm, satisfied, and well, happy! 

Eating ice cream instantly transports us back to wonderful childhood experiences. When we eat ice cream, our brain remembers those positive feelings and we learn to associate the treat with happiness. Of course, one cannot rely on ice cream alone for a happy, fulfilling life, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to include is as part of a well-balanced, individual pursuit of happiness when eaten responsibly.

Serving Up Smiles

In order to feel happy but remain healthy it’s important to enjoy your ice cream, but not overindulge. Stick to the recommended serving size, even though it does feel rather satisfying to eat the pint right to the bottom in one go. Using a small bowl rather than grabbing the carton with a spoon is a good rule of thumb if you’re counting calories. Adding protein in the form of nuts is an excellent way to slow the absorption of sugar and make your serving that much more gratifying. 

Eating ice cream is a pleasure enjoyed by young and old alike. It’s cold and creamy texture brings us to our happy place with the very first bite. Next time you are feeling blue, turn to a single serving of the good stuff and be on your way to feeling better in no time.