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Traditional Fermented Foods Linked With Better Mental Health

A recent review of a number of studies has found that traditional dietary patterns, particularly fermented foods, have a positive effect on brain functioning and may reduce the risk of mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety.

Mental health disorders are characterized by chronic, low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. Researchers found that fermented food may increase antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, improve glycemic control and have a positive influence on neurotransmission and neuropeptide production, thus providing protection against depression.

Previous studies have shown that fermentation can also increase protein quality and the bioavailability of mood-regulating B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc. This review found that traditional fermented foods are biologically active in other ways. For example, Lactobacillus plantarum strains isolated from traditional Chinese fermented foods provided strong antioxidant protection to animals.

They suggest that eating traditional unprocessed and fermented foods might help with gut microbial diversity that has been linked with better health. The researchers encourage further investigation into this connection.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted the study. It was published on January 15, 2014, in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology.

Traditional fermented foods include kimchi and other pickled Asian vegetables. They can be found in Asian supermarkets and make a great addition to lunch or dinner.

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