December 22, 2023

Why should you pickle foods at home?

In the never ending quest for a healthy lifestyle and some balance, I have been trying to bring more good food into our daily eating habits. Interestingly, this can lead down a rabbit hole of research and provide some significant learning on the intricate connection between our diet and mental wellbeing. Which often leads us (me) to consider the impacts of mood, stress, and anxiety on our daily lives. The significance of our dietary choices becomes increasingly apparent: eating what would be known as junk food and not feeling great… or too much cake over Christmas and just drinking a wee bit too much?

The published findings from “Fermented Foods, Microbiota, and Mental Health: Ancient Practice Meets Nutritional Psychiatry” from Selhub, Logan, and Bested offer an interesting perspective into how ancient dietary practices (Traditional Diets), particularly fermented foods, can play a transformative role in managing stress, elevating mood, and combating anxiety compared to modern dietary methods (Western Diets).

Fascinating insights from the article that have backed up how effective pickled foods have been in our diet across 2023:
The Gut-Brain Axis and Mental Health: One of the central themes in these findings is the gut-brain axis, a fascinating communication network that links our digestive system with our brain. The researchers note that compromised intestinal barriers, which can result from a diet high in fat and sugar, might lead to mood disorders. This happens when harmful substances like lipopolysaccharide endotoxin gain systemic access, potentially triggering symptoms of depression.

Traditional Diets and Reduced Inflammation: The findings highlight the benefits of traditional diets rich in fermented foods. Unlike modern Western diets, these traditional diets can significantly reduce blood levels of lipopolysaccharide endotoxin, which is closely linked to depression. This illustrates how adopting dietary habits from our ancestors, such as consuming fermented vegetables and dairy products, could positively influence our mental health.

Probiotics as Mental Health Allies: A key revelation from the research is the role of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria found abundantly in fermented foods, can protect the intestinal barrier and influence mood. The findings indicate that probiotics can decrease anxiety and enhance mental outlook, showcasing a direct relationship between gut microbiota health and mental well-being.

Fermented Foods’ Role in Brain Health: The findings emphasise the mental health potential of fermented foods. These foods, through fermentation, enhance nutrient availability and produce bioactive compounds that positively impact brain health. For instance, fermented rice bran has been experimentally shown to reduce stress and fatigue.

Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Neurotransmitters: The study also discusses the significance of omega-3 fatty acids and gamma-aminobutyric acid in mental health. Fermented foods and probiotics can boost the levels of these essential components, supporting better brain function and mood regulation.

Some Caution: While optimistic about the mental health benefits of fermented foods and probiotics, the findings also caution that not all fermented products are equally beneficial, and more research is needed in this field.

The published findings provide a fascinating glimpse into how our diet, particularly the consumption of fermented foods rich in probiotics, can profoundly impact our mental health. This research bridges ancient dietary wisdom with modern nutritional psychiatry, suggesting that consumption can significantly influence our mood, stress levels, and overall mental wellbeing. I know these insights have helped encourage us to consider the foods we eat more deeply as part of cultivating a positive, healthy lifestyle. I have added my favourite recipe from this year below. Really easy and tasty so maybe you can enjoy it over Christmas.

Recipe 1: Sweet & Sour Pickles


- Cucumbers, sliced evenly

- With the jar of your choice, add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt

- Then add 50% vinegar (enough to fill half of your jar)

- 3-6 cloves of garlic (depending on the size of the jar)

- A few branches of dill, lightly chopped

- Jalapeno chilli (optional, if you like it spicy)

- Water to fill the remaining space, see instructions.

Recipe 2: Pickled Onions


- Red onions, sliced to your preferred thickness (recommended: thickness of a 20-cent piece)

- With the jar of your choice, add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt

- Then add 50% vinegar (enough to fill half of your jar)

- Water to fill the remaining space, see instructions.


1. Prepare your cucumbers or onions by slicing them to your desired thickness.

2. In a clean jar, add 1/2 cup of sugar, (white or brown whichever is on hand) and 1 tablespoon of salt to the vinegar. Mix well until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

3. Add all ingredients from either recipe to the Brine and stuff with cucumbers or onions or the ingredients of your choice.

4. There should still be some space in the jar, screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar to mix all the ingredients together.

with any remaining air in the jar, top it off to the brim with water and close the jar tightly.

5. Leave the jar in a room-temperature cupboard for a couple of nights to allow fermentation to begin.

6. After this initial fermentation, place the jar in the fridge. Your new pickles can be stored in the fridge for around two months if they last that long.

7. Enjoy your sweet and sour pickles on sandwiches, burgers, or as a snack!