From Kombucha to Kimchi: Unveiling the Best Fermented Foods for Boosting Brain Health

Brain Boost Mental Focus Clarity Concept

Researchers are conducting a large study to determine the impact of fermented foods on brain health. Preliminary results have shown that almost all of the 200 fermented foods studied exhibited potential to improve gut and brain health, with fermented sugar-based and vegetable-based products showing the most promise. Fermented sugar products, despite their name, convert raw sugar into beneficial metabolites that can positively affect the brain. Further studies will use an artificial colon and animal models to investigate the effects of these metabolites on the brain, with the aim of encouraging the public to incorporate fermented foods into their diets for mental health and overall well-being.

A study on the effects of fermented foods on brain health has revealed that nearly all of the 200 fermented foods analyzed showed potential for improving gut and brain health. Fermented sugar-based and vegetable-based products demonstrated the most significant benefits, with further research planned to determine the specific effects of these foods on the brain.

Many countries around the world have their own staple fermented foods which are ingrained into culture and diet. It can’t be a coincidence that this has happened again and again. It seems logical that fermented foods offer more than a method of preservation.

Diet can hugely impact your mental health and previous research has shown that some foods are particularly good at positively impacting your brain. Fermented foods are a source of tryptophan, an amino acid key to the production of serotonin, a messenger in the brain which influences several aspects of brain function, including mood. The foods may also contain other brain messengers (known as neurotransmitters) in their raw form. It’s no surprise then that research has shown that eating fermented foods may have various long- and short-term impacts on brain function, such as reducing stress. But which foods have the biggest impact on brain health?

Homemade Fermented Kombucha Tea

Kombucha is a popular fermented beverage made from sweetened tea, typically black or green, that undergoes a fermentation process using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This effervescent drink has a tangy, slightly sweet taste and is believed to offer various health benefits. Rich in probiotics and antioxidants, Kombucha has gained popularity for promoting gut health, aiding digestion, and potentially boosting the immune system. While its origins are unclear, it is believed to have originated in ancient China or Russia and has since become a trendy health drink enjoyed worldwide.

Researchers at APC Microbiome, University College Cork, and Teagasc (Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority) in Moorepark, Cork, Ireland are currently working on a large study to finally answer this question. Ramya Balasubramanian and the team at APC compared sequencing data from over 200 foods from all over the world, looking for a variety of metabolites that are known to be beneficial to brain health.

The study is still in its initial stages, but researchers are already surprised by preliminary results. Ramya explains, “I expected only a few fermented foods would show up, but out of 200 fermented foods, almost all of them showed the ability to exert some sort of potential to improve gut and brain health.” More research is needed to fully understand which groups of fermented foods have the greatest effects on the human brain, but results are showing an unexpected victor.


Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented dish made from a variety of vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage, and seasoned with spices and other ingredients like garlic, ginger, and red chili pepper flakes. The mixture undergoes a fermentation process facilitated by lactic acid bacteria, resulting in a tangy, spicy, and slightly sour taste. Kimchi is rich in probiotics, vitamins, and minerals, which contribute to its various health benefits, including promoting gut health, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system. This iconic Korean staple is enjoyed as a side dish, ingredient, or condiment in numerous dishes, and its popularity has spread globally due to its unique flavor and health benefits.

“Fermented sugar-based products and fermented vegetable-based products are like winning the lottery when it comes to gut and brain health,” explains Ramya.

“For all that we see on sugar-based products being demonized, fermented sugar takes the raw sugar substrate, and it converts it into a plethora of metabolites that can have a beneficial effect on the host. So even though it has the name ‘sugar’ in it, if you do a final metabolomic screen, the sugar gets used by the microbial community that’s present in the food, and they get converted into these beautiful metabolites that are ready to be cherry-picked by us for further studies.”

These further studies are what’s next for Ramya. She plans to put her top-ranked fermented foods through rigorous testing using an artificial colon and various animal models to see how these metabolites affect the brain.

Ramya hopes that the public can utilize these preliminary results and consider including fermented foods in their diet as a natural way of supporting their mental health and general well-being.

4 Comments on "From Kombucha to Kimchi: Unveiling the Best Fermented Foods for Boosting Brain Health"


  2. Lawrence Walsh | April 15, 2023 at 7:45 am | Reply

    how about non-fat yogurt, unadorned with anything?

  3. Chris Noah-Cooper | February 27, 2024 at 12:31 pm | Reply

    Simply a question: How can I get started with Kimchi and other fermented foods? What is a good “starter” Kimchi? I have some problems with really spicy foods, so I have avoided Kimchi. Do you have any suggestions for a book or other source? Thanks

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