Why Food Makes You Happy

Food is one of life’s greatest, simplest joys.

It’s a staple of happy occasions—the common ground that connects even the most disparate of personalities. An emotional trigger that evokes memories of some of life’s sweetest moments. The catalyst that propels us from a ravaged state of hanger back into our normal, likable selves, passing not an ounce of judgment in the process.

We at the San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association have been in especially high spirits over the past several months as we’ve been preparing for what is naturally our favorite week of the year. And now that it’s here, let’s just say we’re ready to dig in (to all the food). As we kick off San Diego Restaurant Week 2018, we decided to examine why exactly food makes us happy—and as it turns out, there’s a fair bit of science behind it.

The Right Foods Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check

You know that weak, hopeless feeling that hits like a ton of bricks, usually a few hours after that scone you grabbed in the haste of the morning rush? While some may write it off as being stressed or tired, the more scientific explanation is that it’s your blood sugar plummeting after having spiked—in the case of the scone, most likely due to its high glycemic index. That morning treat may have given you a boost at the time, but a few hours later, it can seriously mess with your glucose levels—and your mood. In the long term, hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can lead to depression and anxiety, so best to stick to foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.

Nutrient-Rich Foods Can Boost Your Health and Your Mood

Maybe it’s just us, but whenever we read a study that says red wine boosts heart health or coffee reduces the risk of certain cancers (this from Harvard Medical School), we tend to ignore the other ten we come across making any claims to the contrary. In all fairness, several of our favorite foods have been proven to have both mood- and health-boosting elements, which leads us to the conclusion that food does, in fact, make us happy—and that pairing that second glass of wine with a piece of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is medically necessary.

Food is Best Enjoyed with People You Love

Whether you’re heading out to try the latest from Brian Malarkey or hosting Sunday brunch at home, great food pairs well with great friends. Don’t get us wrong—it pairs equally well with a pair of sweats and a Netflix binge, but sharing the culinary experience with a group of family, friends and even new acquaintances is a sure-fire way to spend at least a few hours smiling and laughing. Food is also a marker of some of the happiest of occasions—birthdays, weddings, holidays and all those milestone celebrations we look forward to commemorating with our favorite people and our favorite foods.

The Simple Joy of Cooking

An argument in the case for entertaining at home is that the act of cooking, in and of itself, can make you happier, at least according to the BBC. Not only are you typically enjoying the experience with a group of friends or family, giving the gift of food can incite feelings of delight similar to those you get when you realize you nailed it on the holiday gifting front. It’s also a skill you can continue to refine—the more you do it, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you will enjoy it!

It Just Makes Us Happy

Though we don’t have much technical evidence to underscore our final point, we think it’s important to state the simple, albeit unsubstantiated, fact that a beautifully executed dish is something to smile about. As we head into San Diego Restaurant Week 2018, we cannot wait for all the vibrant, Instagram-worthy plates we’ll be enjoying from more than 180 of our favorite restaurants—with our favorite people.

As excited as we are to hit the ground running for #SDRW2018, we are equally excited to see what you come across in your pursuit of culinary delight. Be sure to share your experiences with us on social media @SDRestaurantWK!

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