Psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, the guy who brought the world incredible catchphrases like “You can’t fail with kale” and “Some people are big pharma – I’m little farmer”, is back with some incredibly interesting data on the relationship between mental health and diet.
A new branch of nutritional psychiatry is emerging, and while some are talking about the compounds in food as a way to treat and prevent mental illness, Dr Ramsey wants to go straight to the source and relate real food to brain health. “Supplements frighten me a little bit,” he says, in an interview with Splendid Table. “They’re totally unregulated. You want a scare, go to the FDA website that looks at recalls of natural supplements. It’s terrifying.” Key mind and mood boosting nutrients that can be gained from food include long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and vitamins B1, B9, B12, D, and E.
Research shows that when you eat a more traditional diet like a Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet your risk of an illness like depression can decrease by as much as 50 per cent. The first clinical trial on this has just reported that a Mediterranean diet (plant-based, with seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fermented dairy, and oils, augmented with some red meat), can treat major clinical depression. Ramsey points out that people think about their hearts, and diabetes, and cholesterol when they plan their food, but there’s not enough focus on brain health and the organ that is your biggest asset.
Ramsey recommends starting by growing a few small herb pots in your kitchen, on a windowsill, in the fire escape (don’t tell the fire marshall), or in the garden and incorporating them regularly in your meals to instantly increase nutritional density. “You see a lot more spices in the Mediterranean diet and fresh herbs; these are a very, very powerful medicine that have always been used to treat illness,” he says. Eat crunch vegetables, create meals with lots of different colored vegetables, and eat lots and lots of seafood – sustainable is best for you and the environment, so do some investigating into a good fishmonger in your area.
The right foods really can boost brain function and minimize mental illness, so start seeing your fork as a valuable intervention tool.
Drew Ramsey’s book is Eat Complete.