Studies say this treat will make you happy. (Getty Images)
It’s no secret that indulging in foods we love can make us smile (even if it’s just on the inside). Understanding that there’s a link between food and mood, researchers in Europe decided to do a little taste test to find out if differently flavored yogurts had any effect on people’s emotional responses.
Study authors gathered a small group of volunteers — about 24 people — and each person was served a pair of yogurts to taste. The yogurts were made by the same company and were marketed the same way. The differences between the two were their flavors and their fat content.
Related: The 7 Best Yogurts to Cheer You Up
Using four different methods for measuring people’s reactions, the researchers uncovered the following findings about yogurt:
Eating vanilla yogurt made people feel happy. It also elicited a strong positive emotional response — which supports previous research on how the subtle scent of vanilla in tension-filled places, like a hospital waiting room, can decrease aggression.
Snacking on either strawberry or pineapple yogurt had zero impact on people’s emotions. However, low-fat versions led to more positive responses.
Liking or being familiar with a certain product had no bearing on people’s feelings. And yet being either pleasantly surprised or disappointed after taking a spoonful of yogurt did influence their mood.
“We were surprised to find that by measuring emotions, we could get information about products independent from whether people like them,” said lead study author Dr. Jozina Mojet, of Food & Biobased Research in the Netherlands. “This kind of information could be very valuable to product manufacturers, giving them a glimpse into how we subconsciously respond to a product.”
Celebrity dietitian Shira Lenchewski tells Yahoo Health that she’s not entirely surprised by these results. “Certain scents can boost your mood via endorphins — the brain’s feel-good chemicals — and vanilla happens to be a strong aromatic stimulant, shown to help reduce anxiety,” she explains.
And while she gives a thumbs-up for choosing vanilla yogurt as a sweet treat, Lenchewski suggests making this creamy snack yourself. “Since most flavored yogurts are loaded with added sugar, I recommend getting full-fat Greek yogurt and adding high-quality vanilla extract.”