Have you ever heard the saying: "Good food is fuel for the soul"? The aromatic scent of Indian curry or the sheer joy of opening a pizza box to take a bite (or three) are definitely enough to make us happy and to trigger the release of happiness hormones such as serotonin in the brain.

In a bid to reveal which takeaways boost our serotonin levels most, Lieferando.at conducted an experiment.

We studied 2,158 people throughout 2020 and analysed their emotional reactions to 11 different takeaway meals, from fish and chips to Chinese, to find out which take-outs please us the most.

Using the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS), we recorded each participants’ mood prior to eating, and after eating a takeaway.

The scale rates the intensity of positive emotions, such as happiness and liveliness, before being added together to create an overall ‘happiness’ score out of a possible 400 for each takeaway cuisine studied.

To give us a general mood score, all 2,158 participants recorded their mood prior to ordering a takeaway. Within five minutes of finishing each takeaway, participants were then asked to record their emotions again.

Participants recorded an average BMIS score of 142 before eating, which was used as a baseline throughout the study for comparison purposes, to see how much happiness levels increased by, on average, after eating each of the 11 different takeaway foods.


Our research found that ordering any kind of takeaway meal increases happiness by an average of 52%, but which takeaway food brings us the most pleasure?

Our study shows that an Indian takeaway increases our happiness the most, raising our participants’ BMIS from 142 points to a whopping 260 – an average increase of 83%.

Is it really any surprise when researchers at UCLA identified that the vibrant spices in foods like turmeric can boost your mood?

Learn more about Indian food

Ordering a sushi takeout? You can expect your happiness levels to rise by 73%. Participants in our study reported a boost in positive emotions, emphasised through our participants’ BMIS score increasing from 142 before eating a sushi takeaway, to 246 after.

Fish is high in vitamin B12, which keeps the brain ‘happy’ and staves off bouts of depression, anxiety, and brain fog.

Salmon, in particular, is rich in tryptophan – the precursor to serotonin, the feel-good chemical – so next time you opt for a sushi takeaway, consider ordering salmon rolls!

Learn more about sushi

Devouring a burger makes us 70% happier, according to our research. The American-style takeaway option increased participants’ BMIS scores from 142 before eating, to 242 post-meal.

This is unsurprising when bearing in mind that burgers are among life’s guilty pleasures.

Order burgers

Thai takeaways made participants in our study 64% happier, with our participants’ BMIS score increasing from 142 before eating their Thai meal, to 233 after tucking in!

This could be down to the use of hot chilli peppers, as chillies contain capsaicin which can act as a mild antidepressant.

Other chillies, including serranos and jalapenos, are also among the top-scoring foods on the Antidepressant Food Score (AFS), which was created to identify foods that prevent and promote recovery from depressive disorders and symptoms.

Learn more about Thai food

Looking to boost your mood? Opt for a Chinese takeaway. According to our study, Chinese take-outs improve happiness levels by 58%, as participants’ BMIS scores increased from 142 pre-meal to an average of 225 after feasting on Chinese favourites like sweet and sour pork, or chicken chow mein.

Learn more about Chinese food

Following behind is one of the world’s favourite takeaways: pizza. The Italian delicacy was found to increase participants’ happiness levels by 52%!

In fact, participants in our study documented a BMIS score of 142 out of 400 prior to eating, before recording a score of 216 after eating.

What’s more, researchers have also revealed how eating pizza stimulates the brain’s endogenous opioid system, thus leading to a significant increase in pleasant feelings. Is there any wonder why so many of us order a pizza delivery when we’re feeling a bit down in the dumps?

Learn more about pizza

Is there anything better than a perfectly crisp Wiener Schnitzel? Eating the veal dish, which is typically covered in breadcrumbs and pan-fried, was found to improve our participants’ happiness levels by 50%.

Participants in our study recorded an average BMIS score of 142 before eating, to 213 post-meal – an increase of 71.

This dish contains high levels of vitamin B12, an ingredient that can affect mood and brain health so it’s unsurprising that devouring this Austrian speciality makes us feel ‘happy’.

Order Schnitzel

Fried chicken is the epitome of comfort food, and one of those go-to guilty pleasure meals we all know and love.

Therefore, it’s no surprise to us that fried chicken increased participants’ mood by 48% overall, after their BMIS score increased from 142 to 210.

Order fried chicken

Our study showed that ordering a kebab improves happiness levels by 27%. Whether it be a shish, donner, or kofte, our participants’ BMIS scores increased by just 39 points (from 142 to just 181), on average, after eating this takeaway meal.

Learn more about kebabs

Mexican takeaways improve our overall mood by just 24%, earning 177 points on the BMIS scale, compared to 142 pre-eating.

Studies have shown that the beans found in Mexican specialities, like burritos, huevos rancheros, and enchiladas, include a range of nutrients which can help fight against depression including tryptophan, magnesium, and folate (vitamin B).

Learn more about Mexican food

In last place is fish and chips, after participants in our study were found to be just 18% happier after eating their meal.

Despite causing a mood boost, this popular takeaway meal earned just 168 BMIS points – 92 points less than the leading takeaway, Indian.

However, ‘happiness’ may stem from the fish in this takeaway meal, as cod contains several important ingredients including lean protein, some B vitamins, and minerals including phosphorus and selenium.

Learn more about fish & chips

Our analysis also investigated which positive emotions were most prevalent among participants after eating the 11 different takeaway options.

After eating each takeaway, participants were asked to note whether they were feeling lively, happy, caring, content, peppy, calm, loving, or active.

We found that participants felt ‘happy’ the most, with Thai, Chinese, pizza, and fried chicken evoking this emotion the most post-meal.

The most common positive emotion after eating each takeaway:

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.

Due to recent events 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’.

  1. Lieferando.at conducted a study with 2,158 takeaway consumers worldwide, providing them with 11 different options throughout 2020.
  2. The Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS) was used to assess participants' general mood, prior to any takeaways being ordered. Once the meal was ordered and within five minutes of finishing each takeaway, participants were then asked to complete the same survey.
  3. The scale used for participants was from 1 to 5. These values were multiplied by 10, making the maximum score for each mood 50, and 400 for the final mood score.
  4. We then collected the results and calculated the average mood scores for all the participants. Prior to eating the takeaway meals, respondents average BMIS score was 142.
  5. Based on this, the percentage change in the average mood score after the takeaway meal was calculated. A higher percentage increase is assumed to represent a greater increase in reported happiness after eating the takeaway meal.