All around the world you will find that countries often have their own staple fermented foods which are cemented into their culture and diet. Is it about preservation only or is there something more to it?

Over and over studies show; and something I see every day with my clients is that food affects mood. Your diet can, and does have an effect on your mental health.

Fermented foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is involved in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved in control of mood and happiness.

Researchers at APC Microbiome, University College Cork, and Teagasc (Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority) 

in Moorpark, Cork, Ireland are currently working on a large study where they are sequencing data from over 200 foods from all over the world; looking for which ones and what about them is beneficial to brain health.

The study is in the early stages, although researchers are reporting some preliminary results. 

Out of 200 fermented foods, almost all of them showed the ability to exert some sort of potential to improve gut and brain health. Ramya Balasubramanian who is on the research team said “Fermented sugar-based products and fermented vegetable-based products are like winning the lottery when it comes to gut and brain health”.  

“For all that we see on sugar-based products being demonised, fermented sugar takes the raw sugar substrate, and it converts it into a plethora of metabolites that can have a beneficial effect on the host. So even though it has the name ‘sugar’ in it, if you do a final metabolomic screen, the sugar gets used by the microbial community that’s present in the food, and they get converted into these beautiful metabolites that are ready to be cherry picked by us for further studies.” 

While Ramya and her team continue these studies, I will continue recommending fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt and kombucha as a way of supporting good gut health and good mental health.


Microbiology Society. “Kombucha to kimchi: Which fermented foods are best for your brain?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2023.


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