What to eat to stay healthy and happy

Nutritionist Kerry Torrens suggests foods to fend off the blues - packed with the nutrients your body needs to make serotonin, the happy hormone.

Eggs in pots

Get your daily dose of vitamin D...

Get a daily shot of sunshine with foods rich in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin associated with better moods. It's found in eggs, oily fish, and fortified breakfast cereals and spreads.

Recipe suggestions:
Sardines with chickpeas, lemon & parsley
Perfect scrambled eggs
Spanish sardines on toast
Salmon & spinach with tartare cream
Baked eggs with spinach & tomato

Lay the foundations...

Soy tuna with wasabi mash
Pack main meals with foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, a key building block for serotonin. Chicken, venison, oily fish like tuna or salmon, dairy foods, soya, nuts and seeds are good choices. Vitamin B6 - found in brown rice, wholemeal wheat, beans and pulses - will help your body to process it.

Recipe suggestions:
Miso brown rice & chicken salad
Soy tuna with wasabi mash
Chicken & vegetable stew with wholemeal couscous
Spiced carrot & lentil soup


Banish bad moods...

Superhealthy salmon burgers
If your low mood is linked to tiredness, increase your intake of iron and vitamin B3. Iron is an important co-factor for serotonin production, while your body needs vitamin B3 to access the energy from food. It's found in turkey, fish, eggs and dairy.

Recipe suggestions:
Spiced turkey burgers
Turkish one-pan eggs & peppers
Thai-style steamed fish
Superhealthy salmon burgers
Perky turkey soup


More omega-3...

Roast salmon with peas, potatoes & bacon
Stay well-oiled! Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish are vital for proper brain function. Vegetarians should choose a good-quality nut or seed oil such as flaxseed or chia seed oil, which are high in omega-3. Their subtle flavour makes them ideal for drizzling on salads and veg.

Recipes suggestions:
One-pan salmon with roast asparagus
Warm mackerel & beetroot salad
The ultimate makeover: Full English breakfast
Hot & sour fish soup
Roast salmon with peas, potatoes & bacon

Snacks with benefits

Stay healthy and banish hunger pangs with one of these snacks next time you need a nibble...

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate
Full of feel-good compounds and high in protective flavonoids, chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% has been proven to be good for the heart and help lower blood pressure. Choose a product with minimal added sugar – be sure to read labels and enjoy one or two small squares only.

Dried fruit

Portable and handy if you're on the go. Ring the changes with dried figs, a fabulous source of iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as valuable B vitamins. Add dried cranberries to yogurt, and snack on dates for their potassium and fibre content. Combine with a small handful of nuts or seeds for an energising, sustaining snack.

Have you struggled with the winter blues or do you have a secret weapon when it comes to keeping on top of the colder months? Let us know below.

This page was last updated on 6th December 2018.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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Molly Miss
21st May, 2017
It says here that nutritionist Kerry Torrens refers to serotonin as "the happy hormone" in an obvious reference to the popular serotonin-as-the-happiness-molecule theory launched and marketed by corporate medicine. Yet a sizable volume of sound research studies demonstrated that increasing serotonin and tryptophan either with drugs or supplements (not food because food's unlikely to significantly raise tryptophan or serotonin in the brain) is linked to brain dysfunction, stress hormone release, cognitive deficits, inflammation, impaired blood circulation in the brain, hypertension, cancer, and other less than "happy" effects - http://www.supplements-and-health.com/tryptophan-side-effects.html The "serotonin-happiness" mantra, just like the mechanistic simplistic "chemical imbalance" idea, seem to be almost entirely an all-too convenient invention of the medical-pharma business, which allowed them to sell their highly profitable antidepressant drugs, such as SSRIs.
2nd Mar, 2018
What such studies display is that too much of 'a good thing' can be bad too. increased serotonin causes increased mood but if too high can cause neuronal toxicity. This is unlikely to happen with any dietary changes though.
2nd Apr, 2016
We are living in a world where many of them looking after their health and staying fit. It’s very important to eat healthy and stay healthy everyday.check out the link below for more details to stay healthy. http://www.healthclaps.com/eat-healthy-stay-healthy-to-live-longer.html
8th Jan, 2016
Thanks for that recipe sounds great and can't wait to try it out! I review healthy eating and cooking techniques on my blog. Currently under review is the metabolic cooking series of cookbooks that are said to boost metabolism. So far I've been doing great with this cookbook and would like to share my review.. http://truehealthreport.com/metabolic-cookbook-review/
Your choice
19th Mar, 2016
Great cookbook! Food choice is very important, and one of the greatest tip is to eat protein and carbs separately. With meat you eat salad, and after that add some carbs :) http://fastingandtraining.com/satiating-foods
7th Jul, 2015
According to the research published in neuroscience, eating chocolate or drinking water triggers the spot that stops pain in the brain. A neurology professor Peggy Mason and her colleague Hayley Food, At Chicago University in Illinois state of the United States emphasize that the person who starts eating chocolate or drinking water cannot stop himself to consume these two materials. http://www.weightlosseasy.tips/it-is-reported-that-eating-chocolate-or-drinking-water-stops-pain.html Researches underlined that drinking water has no harm but consuming too much chocolate causes obesity as many Americans have been suffering today. During the research, the lab mice were over heated underneat the cage by using six lamps occasionally,when the light is on, mice try to have their feet off the ground in order not to be burnt but when they are given chocolate or water; they stand on the cage floor for a longer time. Researchers recorded that subjects remain insensitive to pain due to water or chocolate. Scientists also detected that the subjects went on consuming chocolate or water after the spot that stops pain in the brain is stimulated by this consumption. Professor Peggy Mason said “When we have the food near at hand, we start consuming it without stopping ourselves because our brain commands us to do so.”
zouq's picture
18th Jul, 2014
Very nice infomation. Please visit www.zouq.com/products for some exotic flavours!
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6th Aug, 2014
A fabulous mood enhancing drink is a smoothie of brazil nuts, bananas, natural bio yoghurt, sprinkle of oats and a grating of dark chocolate.