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Feel-good winter root veg

Daniel Couglin / 17 November 2016

Give yourself a boost on the darkest days of the year with these calming carbs.

Root vegetables
Studies show that eating plenty of fruit and veggies can have a positive effect on your mood.

Need a pick-me-up? Try comfort food for the brain. Studies show that eating plenty of fruit and veggies can have a positive effect on your mood, even helping to prevent and treat mental health conditions such as depression.

“For mild or moderate forms of anxiety or depression where a person wants to take a self-help rather than a medication route, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, as well as other fresh foods, can help to ease symptoms,” says Sam Challis, a spokesperson for the charity Mind.

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In season right now, winter root veggies in particular are loaded with nutrients that support brain health and help regulate mood.

Autumn and winter superfoods

Please note: anti-depressants can be life-saving and if your GP has recommended you take them, we do not suggest you ignore that advice. Whenever considering new treatments or supplements to treat your depression it is essential to talk to your GP, especially if you are taking medication. Any changes could affect your medication’s effectiveness.


Mashed up homely-style, swede makes for a comforting addition to a Sunday roast, and may help relax your mind, too. The tasty root veggie is a good source of vitamins C and B6, which research suggests have mood-lifting properties, not to mention a decent source of potassium.

A number of studies have shown that people with mild depression experience a significant improvement in mood when they increase their intake of high potassium foods.

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Sweet potato

Fond of a sweet potato or two? The nourishing veggie is packed with mood-enhancing nutrients. For starters, sweet potato is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to the 'happy chemical' serotonin in the brain.

It's also an excellent source of vitamin C, several mood-stabilising B vitamins and vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, a potent micronutrient that supports mental wellbeing.

How to cook sweet potatoes


If sweet potatoes aren't to your taste, opt for carrots instead. Like sweet potatoes, the bright orange root veggies are crammed with beta-carotene, as well as other carotenoid antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.

Research shows these three carotenoids are closely associated with improved mood. In fact, one study found that people who have a high intake of these wonder carotenoids are 37% less likely to suffer from depression.

How to make carrot soup


A renowned good mood food, earthy beetroot contains an amino acid called betaine, which experts suggest has a positive effect on mood by increasing serotonin levels in the body – it may even help treat the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

Beets also provide a variety of blues-busting micronutrients such as folic acid, manganese and potassium, as well as antioxidant flavonoids that bolster its mood-elevating prowess.

Try this roast beetroot, watercress and smoked salmon salad recipe

Beetroot and chocolate cake

White potato

It's all too easy to dismiss the humble white potato as an unhealthy carb, but spuds are surprisingly nutritious and good for your mental health, too – there's even a bestselling book called Potatoes Not Prozac if you need more persuading.

White potatoes are rich in vitamin B6 to help promote a balanced mood and they're packed with mood-levelling potassium and vitamin C. Spuds also contain copper, which is essential for robust mental health. Unhealthy they are not.

Find all our potato recipes


Boasting a wonderful peppery flavour, celeriac is a hearty winter veggie with some interesting mood-boosting properties. It is one of the richest dietary sources of a flavonoid antioxidant called apigenin, which studies indicate has a calming anti-anxiety effect.

What's more, celeriac is brimming with mood-regulating vitamins and minerals, from B vitamins to potassium and manganese.

How to make celeriac soup


They may not be the most glamorous of veggies, but turnips are super-wholesome and may elevate your mood to boot. The tasty roots are rich in folic acid, which helps maintain adequate serotonin levels in the body.

On top of that, turnips are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and manganese, three super-charged micronutrients that support brain function and help regulate mood.

10 natural ways to lift your mood


Popular during the festive period and a key veggie side dish for the Christmas Day lunch, the delicious parsnip should ideally be enjoyed all winter long.

Like other nourishing root veggies, it is jam-packed with micronutrients that boost serotonin in the body and support healthy brain function, including B vitamins, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and an array of antioxidants. You can't go wrong.

Try this recipe for carrot and parsnip soup with cumin and chilli butter


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.