4 Foods to Improve Your Mood via Your Microbiome
Do you feel stressed out and often experience bad moods? Well, you shouldn’t feel alone! Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems affect nearly one in five Americans (HHS, 2022). And people are not the only ones suffering… your gut bacteria are crying out for help too!
Our microbiome consists of tiny bacteria, also known as microbes, that live on and inside us. Our microbiome connects to our brain via the gut-brain axis, and the composition of our microbiome can greatly affect our mental state (Foster et al., 2013). Luckily, we have the power to control what types of microbes make up our microbiome by choosing to eat foods that promote the growth of mood-boosting bacteria.
We host beautiful colonies of over a thousand different bacterial species (Limbana et al., 2020). These beneficial bacteria compare to ladybugs. Ladybugs help our gardens grow by keeping down the populations of plant-eating insects. Similarly, beneficial bacteria help our bodies thrive by crowding out the harmful bacteria populations.
Beneficial bacteria keep us regular in the bathroom, help us absorb nutrients, produce serotonin (a hormone that makes us feel happy), and so much more (Naidoo, 2019). Whereas harmful bacteria can cause inflammation, cause us to crave sugar, and bog us down. Below, I’ve listed four foods that contain high amounts of prebiotics, also known as fiber or food for our gut bacteria. Do yourself a favor and feed those happy microbes!
1. Raw Oats
Oats have a lot of resistant starch, a type of fiber or prebiotic that passes undigested through the upper gut. Therefore, raw oats make their way to the large intestine, where friendly bacteria break them down and gain nutritional benefits that support their growth. Consuming resistant starches can also promote weight loss, heart health, normal blood sugar levels, and good digestion (Mawer, 2016).
Switch up your oatmeal by trying these easy, 3-ingredient pancakes! Add 1/3 cup raw oats, one egg, and 1/2 a banana to a blender, blend, and cook on the griddle! Top with your favorite nut butter or seeds, berries, and cinnamon! (Please note: these pancakes are low-carb due to only using 1/3 cup of oats, so make sure to pair them with berries, fruit, or another whole-grain carbohydrate source.)
Onions contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS), another type of fiber or prebiotic. Happy gut bacteria love to snack on onions, garlic, and other “stinky” root vegetables. Onions combine easily with most dishes and can boost the flavor! FOS also work to improve mineral absorption, decrease cholesterol levels, and relieve constipation (Sabater-Molina et al., 2009).
3. Chicory Root
Chicory root has more inulin per serving than any other food. Inulin is a type of fructan, another type of fiber or prebiotic. Chicory root tastes great in salads, sauteed with other veggies, or as a coffee substitute. Inulin may also play a role in keeping you feeling full and preventing those sweet and salty cravings (Casselbury, 2022). Check out this popular coffee replacement made with chicory root: https://dandyblend.com/
Jicama is another great source of inulin. It is also loaded with vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals. Our gut microbes love jicama, and it can be a great replacement for chips with guacamole or easily added to salads and stir-fries. Check out my Jicama Sticks Sprinkled with Lime recipe!
Stress, moodiness, and other mental health issues can take a huge toll on your life. While dietary changes alone cannot cure mental illnesses, it is still worth giving prebiotics a shot.
We’ve gone over three foods that feed mood-boosting bacteria. Let us know which ingredient you will try first in the comment section! I urge you to begin including these and other foods high in prebiotics, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, in your diet. Use oat flour in your desserts or swap out your morning coffee for chicory root. Your happy microbes will thank you, and you’ll find yourself thanking them in return.
Love this information & desiring more? Looking for help with healthy diet & lifestyle management? Contact me now; I'm here to help!
Casselbury, K. (2022, March 14). 8 foods high in inulin you should be eating for better gut health LIVESTRONG.COM. https://www.livestrong.com/article/364660-foods-that-contain-inulin/
Foster, J. A., & Neufeld, K. A. M. (2013). Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2013.01.005
Limbana, T., Khan, F., & Eskander, N. (2020). Gut Microbiome and Depression: How Microbes Affect the Way We Think. Cureus, 12(8), e9966. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.9966
Mawer, R. (2016, October 6). 9 foods that are high in resistant starch, its benefits & more. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-resistant-starch#Why-is-resistant-starch-good-for-you?
Naidoo, U. (2019, March 27). Gut feelings: How food affects your mood. Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548
Sabater-Molina, M., Larqué, E., Torrella, F., & Zamora, S. (2009). Dietary Fructooligosaccharides and potential benefits on Health. Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, 65(3), 315–328. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03180584
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, January). Mental Illness. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness