Can 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.
After years of getting a bad rap, it seems eggs are finally getting some of the positive press they deserve. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, along with beneficial amino acids, B vitamins, and healthy fats. But if that’s not enough, three recent studies may inspire you to add an omelet or two to your weekly menu—or to top that healthy salad with a little hard-boiled goodness.
- Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers in Finland recently found that eating eggs was associated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, possibly because eggs contain beneficial nutrients that play a role in healthy glucose metabolism. In a study involving more than 2,300 middle-aged men, those who ate approximately four eggs weekly had a 37% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate only one egg a week.
- Healthy Weight Management
An Australian study recently recruited 140 overweight men and women to study the effects of eggs on healthy weight management. Participants were divided into two groups—those who ate fewer than two eggs per week and those who ate two eggs a day, six days a week. Both groups were encouraged to eat similar amounts of protein, but those in the high egg consumption group said they weren’t as hungry overall and reported feeling more satisfied after meals.
- Better Absorption of Key Nutrients
A new Purdue University study determined that adding eggs to your salad may increase the absorption of the beneficial nutrients found in raw veggies. More than a dozen participants were asked to eat three different versions of a mixed-veggie salad: one with no eggs, one with one and a half eggs, and one with three eggs (each containing an even mixture of yolk and egg white). When eggs were added, researchers saw a notable improvement in the absorption of nutrients called carotenoids. Carotenoids—including beta-carotene and lycopene—are antioxidants and linked to better health and reduced inflammation.