Changed by Dr. Uma Naidoo the way we eat for the better. In his international bestseller This is Your Food Brain, the nutritional psychiatrist outlines the food-mood connection and what we should be putting on our plates to beat depression, OCD, anxiety, and more. In other words, Dr. emphasized. The power of food has been harnessed in a way that marriage has never seen before.
Now Dr. is back. Naidoo along Calm Your Mind With Food: A Revolutionary Guide to Controlling Your Anxiety. In this insightful book, he delves deeper into the most pressing mental health issue of our time, showing how anxiety connects the brain and gut, and the solutions that don’t require prescription drugs. As written by Dr. Naidoo, The ability to fight anxiety should not be reserved only for those with access to good health care.
Dr. Naidoo, who offers personal anecdotes about her upbringing and nutritional journey in her new book, never proselytizes or judges. Her wisdom about how to calm our minds with food is included. My work is about justice, he says The Sunday Paperrespecting what you choose to eat but tailoring it for your best brain health.
A CONVERSATION WITH DR. UMA NAIDOO
You wrote that you have compassion and concern for all people suffering from anxiety today. What did you see?
I don’t think people realize how widespread anxiety is. The Lancet published a paper stating that anxiety increased by 25 percent [since 2020], and this after it became the leading mental health condition. Covid has unleashed what has always been a mental health crisis. In the early 2020s, there was a shortage of Zoloft in the United States, reflecting the acquisition of new diagnoses of people with mood disorders, particularly anxiety. It is quite difficult for people.
That’s why it’s so important for everyone to have ways to feel better. Worldwide, more than 70 percent of people with mental illness do not receive treatment from health care staff. Putting all that together, you realize there must be more solutions. And the textbook diagnosis of anxiety through the DSM-5-TR [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]while it’s a standardized manual used by mental health professionals, it doesn’t get enough people and everyone.
What are some misconceptions about anxiety?
A misconception is that anxiety is bad and that it is something that we must adjust against and use to propel us. Another is that anxiety can only be cured with medication or therapy. Many thought, If it’s anxiety, I have to take medicine. And while I really believe in therapy, and certainly for a certain number of my patients, drugs can save lives, but they are not the only cures. I have seen in my clinical work that many people can use nutritional psychiatry and a lifestyle plan, which includes breathing, movement, exercise, hydration, healthy adjustment of their diet, and preparation of meals. All of these things are really helpful in helping with anxiety.
Talk to us about the connection between immunity, anxiety, and the gut. What is critical to understand?
People don’t necessarily put these body parts together. The gut and brain are connected, which I went into in my first book. In my new book, I explain the high-level gut-brain connection again, and I also include this other connection: immunity. Our immune system is the system that protects our body, and about 70 percent of it is in the gut. This means that these immune cells interact with the food we eat. So, it is important to know that the immune system and the gut are connected. I felt that this interaction was not really discussed and, therefore, was a missing piece for many people.
I want people to understand the basics of science. They can skip that in this book and go straight to part two and part three about foods and interventions. But when you have a basic understanding of how it all works in the body, and you think, It affects the immune system, it affects my anxiety, and you like make [dietary and lifestyle] change, that’s really key.
Please offer us a preview of your “antianxiety eating plan” from your book. What foods should we prioritize?
The Mediterranean Diet is the best place to start. It covers many basic principles to lean on. It is the combination of these foods that can be so powerful. Many people have heard of the Mediterranean Diet before, but I brought recipes into the book to make it more inclusive and interesting. I combine Asian spices with Mediterranean foods, for example, and Asian foods with Mediterranean spices. It’s a way to broaden our perspective on the Mediterranean diet and for people to see that it can be so much more.
How should we approach what we eat?
When thinking about foods to eat, I talk about building a nutritional psychiatry plate. To do this, I want people to think about the following:
Add as many plants and vegetables to your plate as possible. Aim for them to be a kaleidoscope of colors and textures.
Then, add a healthy serving of protein about the size of your palm. This healthy protein can be cooked with tofu, cauliflower steak, chicken breast, or steakideally grass-fed, if you have access to that.
Next, add healthy fats. It could be olive oil to dress your green salad on your plate, which is part of that vegetable section.
Then, add healthy, complex carbohydrates. It can be a small portion of quinoa so you get a few healthy grams of protein and fiber.
That’s how I want people to think about making their plates. Also, play around with the spices and herbs and switch up the vegetables so you can always make it work for you.
You believe that perfectionism and restriction can be harmful. This probably comes as a relief, because healthy eating often makes us think it’s all or nothing.
This is absolutely correct. More people eat meat than not today in this country. More people drink alcohol; more coffee drinkers. These foods and food groups that tend to be demonized really need to be embraced. We have to find a way to consume them and not think that we are doing something wrong. Yes, some of them have problems, like dairy. But I’m not saying eat dairy every day and have it be your only source of protein or probiotics. I’m talking about you Possible enjoy dairy in some parts. You can mix it with some cinnamon or blueberries. You can do it in a way that means you can embrace it and have a flexible, open diet full of eating whole foods.
I feel very strongly that when you hear you can’t eat something, that comes from a restrictive mentality that is very exclusionary in people. I believe that the only way to help this country out of the nutrition mess we are in and to help our anxiety is to find a way through being inclusive. It’s about saying, ‘Okay, you eat steak, but how can you adjust it to help your anxiety?’
Uma Naidoo, MD, is a board-certified Harvard Nutritional Psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutritional biologist. He is the founder and director of the first and only hospital-based Nutritional and Metabolic Psychiatry Service in the United States, at Mass General Hospital. He serves as the Director of Nutritional Psychiatry at the MGH Academy and is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Learn more atumanaidoomd.com.
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