Homemade Sauerkraut with Carrot and Salad Cabbage with Beetroot on a wooden table.
Elena Hramova/Shutterstock

Food, Farming and Nutrition

Journal Abstracts
Nov 07, 2022

Food, Farming and Nutrition

De-Stress With Sauerkraut?

Journal Abstracts
Jun 18, 2024

Could changing your diet impact your stress levels?

A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry has shown that eating more fermented foods and fiber daily for just four weeks had a significant effect on lowering perceived stress levels.

Researchers recruited 45 healthy people, 18–59 years old, with relatively low-fiber diets, split them into two groups, and randomly assigned a diet to follow for the four-week duration of the study.

Around half were assigned a diet which would increase the amount of prebiotic and fermented foods they ate. This is also known as a "psychobiotic" diet, as these foods have been linked to better mental health. This group was given a one-on-one education session with a dietitian at both the start and halfway through the study where they instructed to include 6–8 servings daily of fruits and vegetables high in prebiotic fibers (e.g., onions, leeks, cabbage, apples, bananas and oats), 5–8 servings of grains per day, and 3–4 servings of legumes per week. They were also told to include 2–3 servings of fermented foods daily (e.g., sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha). Participants on the control diet only received general dietary advice, based on the healthy eating food pyramid.

The participants who followed the psychobiotic diet reported they felt less stressed compared with those who followed the control diet. There was also a direct correlation between how strictly participants followed the diet and their perceived stress levels, with those who ate more psychobiotic foods during the four-week period reporting the greatest reduction in perceived stress levels.

The quality of sleep improved in both groups, and those on the psychobiotic diet reported greater sleep improvements.

The psychobiotic diet only caused subtle changes in the composition and function of microbes in the gut. However, there were significant changes in the level of certain key chemicals produced by these gut microbes. Some of these chemicals have been linked to mental health, which could potentially explain why participants on the diet reported feeling less stressed.

The next time you're feeling stressed, maybe you'll want to think more carefully about what you have for your next meal. Including more fiber and fermented foods for a few weeks may just help you feel a little less stressed out.

REFERENCES

Berding, K., et. al.  (2022, October 27). Feed your microbes to deal with stress: a psychobiotic diet impacts microbial stability and perceived stress in a healthy adult population. Molecular Psychiatry. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01817-y

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