Your mental health is affected by so many things, and recently scientists have found that our gut microbiome is one of the main culprits in a person’s mental and physical health.

Did you know that every time you eat, you are feeding trillions of bacteria that live in your stomach? This collection of bacteria and viruses are called your microbiome and they can either promote disease or promote health within your body. Scientists have found that how we feed our microbiome directly links to our overall health including our mental health.

Here’s some foods to help improve gut microbiome and overall health.

What foods help your overall health

To put it simply, when you eat a variety of foods you’re more likely to have a variety of microbes in your gut and those different microbes make your gut happy, which makes your body healthy. A study published by the National Library of Medicine reported that higher diversity in a person’s microbiome is correlated to good health and that lower diversity is correlated to poor health.

Eating a varied diet of healthy foods, with your favorite treats in moderation, are the key to achieving greater overall health.

The Washington Post reported that fiber-rich plants and nutrient-dense foods seem to be the most helpful, according to Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. According to Spector, increasing the variety of plant foods you eat each week will help your body’s overall health in the long term. To feed your microbiome in a good way, begin by eating a variety of herbs, spices, variety of leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, grains, fruits and different vegetables.

Though it is important to eat a variety of foods, it is the fiber based foods that are really helpful to include in your diet.

How gut bacteria affects mental and physical health

In a study published in Nature Medicine last year, Spector, along with other scientists from a variety of schools, studied and found clusters of “good” gut microbes that protected people against cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. They also found “bad” microbes that linked to low metabolism, heart disease and inflammation.

The Washington Post reported that plaque buildup in your arteries can be caused when the wrong microbes mix together.

Along with these physical health issues, mood-altering neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are also effected by gut bacteria. These mood-altering neurotransmitters also determine how well you sleep and perform daily tasks. The National Library of Medicine published a study that found your gut microbiome composition plays a role in how well you sleep.

Maria Marco, a professor of food science, said that research is still continuing on this front, but there are findings that boosting your gut microbiome diversity will increase a person’s immune health.

“We’re increasingly developing a very rich understanding of why microbes are so good for us,” Marco said.