06/26/2015 08:51 am ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015

How Eating Foods With Healthy Bacteria Can Help Bust A Bad Mood

When a bad mood strikes, it's tempting to lean into the emotions and just ride it out. But there are ways to take a more proactive approach -- even with what you eat. Emerging research suggests that the bacteria living in your gut may be impacting your mood, and changing what you eat can be the bad-mood-buster you've been looking for.

Registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield recently broke down the basics of this gut-mood research with the digital series #OWNSHOW. She says to think of your gut and digestive system as a "second brain" that communicates with your actual brain; because of this connection, what exists in your gut can actually have a direct influence on your feelings and emotions. To take back control, Scritchfield says to turn to certain foods that contain healthy bacteria.

"I recommend eating what's called fermented foods," she says. "Some of these might be familiar..."

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tempeh (fermented tofu)
  • Kimchi ("Basically fermented sauerkraut," Scritchfield says)

To help determine if certain foods contain healthy bacteria, Scritchfield suggests looking closely at the food labels.

"Especially for kefir and yogurt, you want to see that it says it has live and active cultures," she says. "Some of those other products may or may not emphasize that from a marketing standpoint, but you are looking for foods that have been naturally fermented."

Aside from eating foods with healthy bacteria, you can also improve your digestion with one other key practice: eating more fiber.

"One of the things that we've known for a long time that's very good for our digestive wellness is getting dietary fiber," Scritchfield says. "You can get that just with a balanced, healthy eating of mostly plants. This is everything from our fruits and veggies... [to] foods like beans, seeds and nuts."

There's also a compounding effect, she adds, explaining that foods like garlic, artichokes, bananas and berries help our healthy bacteria multiply.

"In a lot of these healthy foods we consume, they contain fibers that we cannot digest. They're called prebiotic fibers," Scritchfield says. "This actually serves as food for our healthy bacteria. So, we're feeding them so they grow and populate, and then do good things for our bodies."


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