Even before the pandemic it was well documented that good health outcomes are not evenly distributed across the U.S. Social determinants of health, which are often tied to race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, unfortunately have a large impact on health equity.

A growing body of research shows that stress also plays a key role. BIPOC and other underserved populations often report greater levels of perceived stress, which affects physical health—for example, impacting obesity and mortality rates in Black women. 

Policymakers are working on solutions to address these disparities, but there are some things that can be done at the individual level. Scientists have discovered a correlation between diet and emotional health, and that making even modest adjustments to what you eat can increase well-being. 

This topic is the subject of a recent The Upside article by bestselling author Judith Finlayson. She explores new research that connects gut health with emotional health that may be useful in terms of helping people manage stress and improve their health outcomes. 

Stress makes many of us crave junk food, Finlayson explains, but unfortunately these nutrient-deficient foods "can also reshape the bacterial composition of your gut." This undermines our ability to handle stress—and fuels future cravings. 

In the article, Finlayson offers techniques for revitalizing gut microbiomes to achieve balance and improve mood. Simple diet changes—like shifting to a high-fiber, plant-based diet, adding more fermented foods like yogurt and kombucha, and reducing (or better yet, eliminating) processed foods—can help your gut and boost your mood. 

There are, of course, broader, complex issues to consider (such as how to expand access to healthy, affordable food options) but the science is clear: Small dietary tweaks can add up to meaningful health benefits. The hope is that, armed with the right tools and education, people can make informed daily choices, and feel better—physically and mentally.  

Access the full article here and pass along to your employees, employer clients, or members if you think they might enjoy it!