Fermented Foods May Help Reduce Anxiety

fermented_cabbageCan adding more fermented foods to your diet benefit your mental health? It seems it might, say researchers from the University of Maryland and the College of William & Mary. They recently completed a joint study linking the consumption of fermented foods to reduced social anxiety among young adults.

More than 700 college students participated in the study, and each was asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire that inquired about dietary habits—especially fermented food consumption—as well as how often they exercised. The main finding, according to researchers, was that that young adults who ate more fermented foods displayed fewer symptoms of social anxiety, particularly those with a genetic predisposition toward anxiety disorders.

At the heart of it all is what scientists call the gut-brain connection—the relationship between our gut bacteria and healthy brain function. The more scientists learn about the trillions of different microbes that reside in our intestinal tract, the more they are beginning to understand how closely linked the human microbiome is to healthy brain function, mood, and behavior.

“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” said William & Mary Psychology Professor Matthew Hilimire. He and his colleagues plan to continue investigating the gut-brain connection in a series of upcoming studies.

We know good nutrition plays a key role in physical health, but we often forget how connected it is to our mental health. Researchers believe new findings such as these point to the possibility that low-risk nutritional changes may be part of a comprehensive strategy to promote optimal mental health.

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Another Good Reason to Eat More Fiber!

kebabsThink about what you ate for breakfast this morning or that quick lunch you grabbed on the go. Are you getting enough fiber in your daily diet? Leading experts recommend consuming between 20 and 35 grams daily for better digestion and health, but many Americans fall far short of that goal. In case you need another reason to bulk up on fiber, let’s talk inflammation.

Scientists have discovered recently that a diet high in fiber may help reduce inflammation. Why is this important? While typically associated with a reaction outside the body (such as a rash or an inflamed cut or scrape), inflammation also refers to a wide range of immune functions occurring inside the body that protect us from illness and disease. Most immune responses last only a few days, such as when you are fighting a cold, but when your immune system is out of balance, inflammation can persist and contribute to a host of chronic conditions that can impact your physical and mental health.

Recent data has shown that people who follow a high-fiber diet have lower blood levels of certain chemicals that indicate the presence of inflammation in the body, suggesting that fiber has a positive effect on our natural immune response and may help support a balanced immune system. Based on this information, experts recommend getting plenty of fiber in the diet.

Some of the best sources of dietary fiber are low-sugar fruits such as fresh berries, grapefruit, kiwi, plums, tomatoes, and apricots. Non-starchy veggies such as leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cucumber, and peppers are also a great way to add more fiber to your diet, and the summer months are a perfect time to bring more fresh produce to the table.

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