Sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt and other fermented dishes makes for a healthy body and a well-functioning brain.
Have the effects of the last year or so left you feeling not as sharp as you once were? If so, one way to boost your mood and your brain power could be to add some sauerkraut to your supper.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a box of doughnuts for the past five years, you’ll know that these days, good health is all about microscopic things. In the late 1990s the term microbiome was coined to describe all the microbes - bacteria, fungi, protozoa and (yes) viruses - that live on and inside the human body.
Weighing a total of around 2kg, there are about 10 times as many individual microbes as there are cells in the human body. It’s the ones in our gut that get most attention, as a healthy, diverse mixture of the right microbes performs many useful jobs there, including helping digest food, regulating the immune system, reducing inflammation, protecting against bacteria that cause disease and producing vitamins.
Increasingly, scientists are convinced that a fit microbiome is the key not just to a healthy body but to a well-functioning brain. It's now mainstream thinking that eating live sauerkraut, and other live fermented foods like kimchi and kefir, can boost our gut microbiome and help with sleep and mood.
The live probiotics in the foods, along with healthy prebiotics seem to work in part by supercharging the immune system and by their anti-inflammatory effect. So, what's the difference between probiotics and prebiotics - apart from a single letter?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, and are found in “live” fermented foods like sauerkraut, live yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and some cheese.
Prebiotics are kinds of fibre found in fruit and veg that are particularly good for feeding probiotics (gut bacteria). For a healthy gut you need to eat lots of prebiotics like onions and Jerusalem artichokes.