Mental health refers to how we feel, think, and act. While some factors that affect our mental health are completely out of our control (like our family history), there are other influences that we can control, like our diet, that may also play a role in how we feel. Kefir and Greek yogurt benefits outweight many other foods because they are fermented.
Emerging data show that our eating may be linked to our mental health. Specifically, our gut health may impact our mental health via the intricate interactions that the two have with each other.
It is important to note that poor mental health is not the same as mental illness. While some data suggests that diet may impact our mental health, the same does not hold true in the case of mental illness.
How Gut Health May Impact Mental Health
Our gut is made up of trillions of microbes, or tiny organisms like bacteria. Gut bacterial strains have various important roles in the body, one being that they help produce neurotransmitters that send unique chemical messages to the brain. This interaction is oftentimes referred to as the gut-brain connection. This connection is so strong that some refer to the gut as the “second brain”.
The foods we eat may impact which microbes reside in our gut, impacting the signals sent to our brain. This signaling may play a role in our mental health, highlighting how our diet may quite literally affect our mood.
Eating To Support The Gut-Brain Connection
Supporting a healthy gut may mean supporting a healthy mind. And one of the best ways to support gut health is to include fermented foods in your diet, as these options are sources of live beneficial bacteria, or probiotics. Probiotics from fermented foods join forces with the microbes occupying the gut and help to keep it performing at its peak.
Kefir and Greek Yogurt Benefits
Kefir is a popular fermented dairy beverage that contains more than 50 species of bacteria and yeast. Consuming it may directly affect the gut-brain axis, potentially supporting your mental health via your diet. Kefir can be enjoyed on its own or used in recipes like overnight oats or smoothies.
Greek yogurt is a great fermented food that has similiar benefits to kefir. It has proven to keep the gut balanced, which in turn affects your mood.
Your dietary choices won’t be the only factor in your mental health. But simple additions, like probiotic-rich kefir, to your balanced diet may help you attain your goal if you are focused on naturally supporting your mental health.
Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and freelance writer. She has been working in the nutrition field for almost 20 years and is passionate about sharing evidence-based information with the public. She manages the Instagram account @LaurenLovesNutrition.