We’ve long known that fiber-rich foods such as lentils, artichokes, and avocados aren’t just plain delicious, they’re also jam-packed with nutritional benefits. From balancing our sugar levels to lowering cholesterol and helping our digestion, tasty treats filled with fiber can help keep our bodies healthy and in shape. Now, new research out of China has found that fiber could go a long way in keeping our minds healthy, as well — by reducing our risk of depression.
The study — the results of which will be published in full this October in the journal Nutrition — analyzed data from a survey tracking the eating habits of more than 16,000 people in the United States. The researchers found that participants who consumed 21 grams of dietary fiber a day from cereals, veggies, and fruits were less likely to exhibit the symptoms of depression. According to the study, the average American has a daily fiber intake of 15 grams.
“Increasing intake of foods rich in dietary fiber may be advocated for the prevention of depressive symptoms,” the researchers wrote. “When total fiber intake was at 21 grams per day, the risk of depressive symptoms reached a relatively low level, which has important public health implications.”
While the study states that the exact link between fiber and depression remains unknown, experts believe it might have something to do with a concept called the “gut-brain axis.” According to this theory, dietary fiber boosts the production of healthy intestinal bacteria, which in turn impacts positive brain function. Another possible answer is that fiber could lower blood sugar levels after a meal, halting the inflammatory processes that negatively impact the body after a glucose spike. In other words, a daily breakfast of healthy grains and a heaping helping of avocado toast won’t just make your stomach happy; it’ll make your brain happy, too.