The connection between brain and gut is well established by many scientific studies. This connection goes both ways. Just thinking about eating something can start the process of releasing digestive juices and enzymes, while a compromised microbiota could affect your mood.
Gut is an important source of many neurochemicals which are necessary for brain to regulate metabolic reactions and mental processes. For example, 95% of serotonin, which is usually known as happiness hormone, is produced in the gut. Therefore looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of microorganisms are critical for mood and mental health.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet encourages a healthy balance of gut bacteria which will support our mental health. Adding probiotic-rich foods and drinks, which are sources of “good” live microbes to our diet and limiting processed and high- sugar foods are beneficial for our gut flora. The best sources of probiotic foods are kefir (fermented milk), organic live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha (fermented tea), aged cheeses such as cheddar, gouda or mozzarella.
Read on for a simple kimchi recipe to support your friendly bacteria!
• 1 head Chinese cabbage, chopped
• Sea salt water with 1 cup of salt and 5 cups of water
• Daikon radish, chopped or carrots, celery, green beans
• 4 cloves garlic
• 1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
• 1 organic apple, whole
• 2 tbsp of Korean Red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like it
• 1-2 tsp of fish sauce/ Nam Pla (optional)
Trim ends of cabbage and chop any way you want – thin or thick strips are fine. Chop the daikon radish/ other vegetable up too.
In a big bowl add the vegetables in the salt water and mix thoroughly. Leave in room temperature overnight, covered.
In a food processor, blend the garlic, ginger, chili flakes, fish sauce and apple into a paste.
Thoroughly mix the cabbage, vegetables and paste using gloves as the chili can really sting!
Pack mixture into glass mason jars with some sort of kitchen tool with a blunted end. Press mixture firmly into jars until the water level starts rising. This is the key! This anaerobic salty brine solution in which the magic of fermentation happens. Bad bacteria can not form in this brine solution. Continue pressing until everything is submerged under the water. Leave at least an inch between the top of the water and the top of the jar.
Put the lids on and leave the jars at room temperature for 2-7 days. Open the lids every day to release the gasses that form as a by-product of fermentation. If the water level rises, drain some off. If the vegetables rise above the level of the water, pack them back under the water.
Taste the kimchi after 5 days. It should taste pleasantly sour. If not, continue to let it ferment and taste it every day until you find the taste acceptable. Transfer to the fridge where it will continue to ferment (and the taste will change!) albeit at a much slower pace. It will last for up to six months.
For more tips on how you can support your mental health watch our Mental Health Webinar with Darya Haitoglu.