‘Brain health depends on nutrition’
Psychiatrist, Dr Drew Ramsey, believes millions of people are suffering with untreated or under-treated depression and he wants diet to be part of the conversation.
In HealthHackers episode 19, the founder of The Brain Food Clinic in New York and author of three books, including ’50 Shades of Kale’ & the award-winning ‘Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients that Fuel Brain Power, Boost Weight Loss & Transform Your Health’, told me:
“We don’t talk about food. No one ever asks about that and it matters when it comes to mental health”.
He wants us to embrace foods that will nourish our brains.
“I think we can all agree that mental health depends on brain health and brain health depends on nutrition.”
Dr Drew’s recommendations include: colourful vegetables, seafood, nuts and beans.
And of course, as the man who co-founded National Kale Day, he’s a big advocate of eating leafy greens.
One thing he’s tired of, though, is fat fear.
I reminded him that experts have told us for years to eat a low-fat diet.
“Do they seem happy to you?,” he said.
“Do they seem joyful at the meal?”
“Like, ‘Woah I can’t wait to have dinner with that low fat guru!’ ”
Dr Dre explained that our brains are mostly made of fat and that eating healthy omega 3 and monounsaturated fats like those found in fish, avocados, olive oil and nuts means our brain “does better”.
“If you don’t eat a fatty diet, first of all you don’t absorb nutrients your brain needs.
“When you eat a tomato and you don’t put fat on it, you don’t absorb lycopene.”
FYI: Lycopene is an antioxidant that we want!
Dr Drew told me researchers had looked at traditional diets, ones that tended to contain higher fat, and there was a decreased risk of depression in those populations… a pretty major one.
“We’re talking about like 40 to 50% decreased risk”.
Dr Drew looks at overall diet and the quality of carbs and fats eaten by each of his clients.
A word to the wise on carbs: “All carbohydrates are sugars, so if you’re drinking pineapple juice that’s like having a hard candy,” he told me.
Diet can affect the brain in other surprising ways, I discovered:
“I met an individual once who only ate eggs and drank apple juice and he had psychosis caused by B vitamin deficiencies,” Dr Drew said.
However, despite being a foodie (and a farmer!), the psychiatrist does not think diet is a magic cure for all mental illness.
Some of his clients have great diets, so medication and other treatments can be highly-effective in those cases apparently.
While food is a factor to consider, Dr Drew has seen people overcome depression using various strategies.
Pets, medication, psychotherapy and exercise work for some, he told me, but if you’re wondering what gets the best results…
“The number one antidepressant I see is human love.