Good Mood Food at Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival

It’s a Saturday and I’ve been fighting a bad cold. It’s hard to be happy with a blocked nose and sore throat. Yet, here I am on a Saturday morning at the Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival attending my first lecture of the day – Walking on Sunshine: How to Beat the Blues by Dr. Rachel Kelly.

While Dr. Kelly has tons of great advice on maintaining our mental health, one of the most interesting sub-topics is the concept of Good Mood Food. It all boils down to the simple message ‘what we eat, impacts our mood’

What is Good Mood Food?

Traditionally, we used to think of the brain as the sole governor of the body. The brain sent us signals that our body then responded to. It wasn’t so much of a conversation between brain and body as a dictatorship of the brain over the body. Yes, we knew that the brain could respond to things like pain, but this isn’t quite the same idea.

Recent research suggests that the gut is akin to a second brain. In fact, the gut even has its own nervous system (known as the enteric system) that allows it to function independently of the brain.

The gut and brain are connected by the vagus nerve. About 90% of signals passed through the vagus nerve originates in the gut, which indicates that importance the gut plays in our reactions to our environment.

The Link Between Gut Health and Mood

“All diseases begin in our gut” – Hippocrates

The bacteria in our gut can have a direct impact on not just our physical health, but also our mental health. Studies have linked low gut bacteria (BDNF) to clinical depression, chronic anxiety, and other psychiatric diseases.

Studies conducted on rats suggest that rats with good gut health (I.e good gut bacteria) show increased motivation and decreased depression. When placed in a tank of water, the mice that received probiotic fought for longer to stay afloat while mice that did not receive probiotics only fought half-heartedly before giving up.

What Food Should I Eat to Boost My Mood?

Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like oily fish, are one of the best mood boosters. Omega-3 is essential for brain health as this type of fatty-acid is an essential element of the nervous system and brain. It helps messages pass through the system quicker and more efficiently.

In fact, countries, such as Japan, that have a higher intake of oily fish have lower rates of depression, bipolar disorder, post-partum depression, and even suicide.

Other mood boasting food includes a diverse intake of vegetables (the more colourful your diet, the better), foods containing amino acids (like chicken, nuts, and tuna), and carbohydrates.

The Happy Kitchen by Rachel Kelly

The Happy Kitchen provides a more thorough explanation of the connection between gut and brain and even includes recipes for achieving a good mood through food.

In this book, Rachel argues that not only can a proper diet boost your mood, but it can also boost your energy, comfort a troubled mind, support hormone balance, and help you sleep better.

Check out The Happy Kitchen online at


Kathryn Strachan