Mental Health Benefits
Scientists have long recognized that the brain sends signals to the gut, a process that reveals why stress, for example, can express itself through gastrointestinal symptoms. However, it wasn’t until 2013, when researchers at the UCLA uncovered the first evidence that the signal can go the other way as well: from gut to brain.
By studying a group of women who regularly ate yogurt — containing the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics — it was found that ingested bacteria in food can affect human brain function, effectively altering the way the brain responds to the environment. Specifically, the researchers found that the bacteria in yogurt may help relieve anxiety and stress by reducing activity in the insula, the area of the brain responsible for emotion.
It may be impractical to expect that probiotics will replace medications in the treatment of depression. However, the message for now is that probiotics not only help you avoid obesity and disease, probiotics taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise may benefit mental health.
Aim for one to two servings of these foods every day:
Chilled Cucumber, Scallion & Yogurt Soup
4 ½ Cups Plain low-fat yogurt
1/3 Cup Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp. Cold water
3 Each Peeled, seeded & chopped cucumbers
3 Each Scallion, finely chopped
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Toasted walnuts (optional)
1 ½ tsp Fresh dill, Chopped
- Place the yogurt in a large bowl and gradually whisk in the oil. Whisk in the vinegar and enough cold water to make a somewhat thick mixture. Stir in half of the cucumbers, scallions, salt & pepper. Puree in a blender or food processor. Transfer back into the bowl and stir in remaining cucumbers. Refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 1 hour.
- Serve chilled soup sprinkled with the walnuts (if using) and the dill.