Comfort Food. The term conjures images of rich mac and cheese, creamy ice cream or maybe an extra large poutine. Definitely menu items that will satisfy a craving (or maybe a hangover) but what if there were foods that naturally comforted our emotions and promoted mental wellness by reducing the psychological symptoms of social anxiety?
Well it turns out that researchers are discovering that fermented foods can do just that. In a recent study psychology and social work researchers found that students who consumed fermented foods were less likely to experience symptoms of social anxiety. Anxiety symptoms are strongly linked to gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms (think about how your stomach feels when you are nervous) so it makes sense that helping your tummy feel better can help calm those anxious feelings.
Fermented foods are foods that are produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms, specifically by the bacteria lactobacilli. These foods are often pickled, but not always, and not all pickled foods are fermented. For an explanation of the difference between fermented and pickled foods, as well as a list of fermented foods click here.
During the fermentation process healthy bacteria or probiotics, are produced. When we ingest these live bacteria, via fermented foods, they colonize and flourish in the digestive system. In addition to warding off symptoms of anxiety, probiotics are known to produce a wide range of health benefits including; aiding in digestion, enhancing the immune system and fighting off harmful bacteria.
Some of the more common and popular fermented foods include:
- Yogurt and Kifir
- Sour Cream
- Cottage Cheese
If you are feeling really ambitious try making your own sauerkraut with this recipe.
References: University of Maryland, Baltimore. (2015, June 9). Decreased social anxiety among young adults who eat fermented foods. ScienceDaily
Matty Hillman is a graduate student from The University of Victoria, currently completing a practicum placement with counseling services at Selkirk College.