3 Foods That Strengthen the Crucial Gut-Brain Connection

A person carrying a basket of potatoes
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We used to think that the gut’s only function was to process food, but scientists now understand that the mind and the gut are intricately linked. The gut manages digestion, breaks down food, helps absorb nutrients and gets rid of waste. In doing so, it may affect what you eat, your mood and whether you get sick or remain healthy. To carry out these complicated tasks, the gut uses beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which feed on nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics (aka roughage) and help good bacteria grow and flourish. Here are three foods to help your gut function at its best.

1. Yogurt

In a UCLA study, researchers gave a group of healthy women probiotic-rich yogurt or a probiotic-free milk product or neither food. At the start of the study, brain scans measured the women’s reactions to pictures of people with angry or frightened faces. The researchers found that the participants who ate yogurt responded more calmly than the other groups did.

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2. Onions, leeks and garlic

This dynamic prebiotic trio is one of the best sources of a soluble fiber called oligofructose, a natural source of inulin. Studies show that inulin stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria, which force out potentially harmful bugs. Some research suggests that alliums may help the body resist infection, boost brain performance, help protect the heart and control cholesterol.

3. Sauerkraut

This tangy probiotic and its cousins kimchi and sour pickles may restore healthy gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics. They contain live bacteria that can help repopulate the gut with healthy bugs if the antibiotics you took — which wipe out illness-causing bacteria — caused gastrointestinal mayhem.

Learn more about foods that strengthen the gut-brain connection

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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