Photo of butternut squash
Butternut squash is a good source of antioxidants that support your health in winter months [Image: Forest & Kim Starr - Wikimedia Commons]

Foods to boost your mood

8 November, 2011

It is thought that a low level of the neurotransmitter serotonin may have a role to play in depression and low moods. Some people especially suffer with low mood at this time of the year when the days are shorter and there is less natural light.

Tryptophan is an amino acid which is the precursor to serotonin.  It helps with stress tolerance levels and supports a good sleep pattern and can only be obtained from food, the body cannot produce it’s own.

Food has an important role in helping to regulate moods. Here are five seasonal foods to boost your serotonin levels:

Butternut squash – also a good source of carotenoids, which are great antioxidants to support your health through the long winter months. Although we think of butternut squash as a very starchy vegetable, the starch in this vegetable brings some key benefits to health acting as an anti-inflammatory. Butternut squash provides good levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fibre, and B vitamins along with omega-3 fatty acids. This vegetable can be baked in the oven and served filled with a stew or casserole as a centre piece, or can be cubed and steamed or chipped and baked in place of potato.

Walnuts – this tasty nut is shaped like a brain which is quite relevant as it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids sometimes referred to as ‘brain food’.  Walnuts also provide a very bio-available form of vitamin E which is related to heart health.  Walnuts can be enjoyed on their own as a snack, crushed and added to cereals or soups, or tossed into salads to add an interesting twist.

Sweet potato – a fantastic alternative to the ordinary potato, providing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar regulating nutrients. Like butternut squash, sweet potatoes provide great sources of beta carotene, raising our blood levels of vitamin A, and vitamin C, much needed to ward off coughs and colds. Sweet potato can be cooked exactly like potatoes, baked, steamed, chipped or mashed! Ring the changes and include them in your winter diet to boost your intake of healthy nutrients.

Turkey – the seasonal favourite meat to share with family and friends.  Turkey provides a good source of protein which is the primary nutrient for our bodies. It also gives good levels of selenium which is needed for our immune system and vitamins B3 and B6. Turkey is best roasted as it can dry out very quickly, and the type of turkey you choose to buy is important too. Organic and free range turkeys generally give the greatest amount of nutrients, as the nutrient content of the bird depends on the health and diet fed to the bird during its life.

Dates – a wonderful sweet treat to offer instead of sugary sweets and chocolate. Dates provide antioxidant benefits and also a good source of iron, potassium and other minerals. They can be enjoyed on their own or chopped and added as a sweetener to other dishes in the place of sugar, or stuffed with fillings such as walnuts or almonds.


  • Penny Taliadoros is a nutritional therapist and iridologist.