Mental Clarity: How Fermented Foods Boost Brain Health and Mood - Rancho La Puerta
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Mental Clarity: How Fermented Foods Boost Brain Health and Mood

Fermented foods can have beneficial effects on brain health. Certain fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, contain high levels of probiotics that interact with the gut microbiota, which can affect brain function and mental health. Consuming fermented foods can also promote the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation.

Our microbiome may change as we age, leading to less diversity of gut bacteria. Given that fermented foods help maintain the diversity of our microbiome, studies have examined the effect of fermented food consumption on maintaining cognitive health.

Some fermented foods have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. By reducing inflammation in the brain, fermented foods may protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In addition to fermented foods, soy products, coffee, alcoholic beverages, and polyphenols in many plant foods also have neuroprotective effects.

Studies are mixed regarding low and moderate alcohol intake for women. Some studies find less neurodegeneration with abstinence from alcohol. Coffee consumption has been consistently associated with better cognition. Polyphenols are primarily regarded as antioxidants. Recent research shows polyphenols are involved in protective signaling and have been demonstrated to slow the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. They may also reduce the damage of aging, stroke, and traumatic brain injury.

Some probiotics, known as brain probiotics or psychobiotics, regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These compounds involve learning, memory, mood, and other cognitive processes.

Try incorporating some fermented foods daily. Be consistent, as protecting brain health is considered more of a marathon than a sprint. You might even keep a journal on how your body responds in regards to digestion, elimination, cognition, and even anxiety and depression. Just a few tablespoons each day of pickled foods like kimchi, kefir, or the beautiful Giardiniera created by our incredible Chef Reyna Venegas, can go a long way to keeping your brain in good health.

Linda is the founder of Nutrition Muse and current Director of Nutrition at Lifewellness Institute in Point Loma, CA, where she is responsible for patient clinical care and corporate wellness education for local and international corporations. 

See the Tres Estrellas Giardiniera Recipe.


1. A Review of Fermented Foods with Beneficial Effects on Brain and Cognitive Function

2. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health