Eat to Build a Better Brain - Drew Ramsey MD
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Image courtesy Flickr/Aban Nesta

Good mental health-feeling your best, focused, energetic, and balanced-begins with the right food choices. And the stats are in, folks. We are not making the right choices. Today, illness rates are at an all-time high, not only for obesity and diabetes, but also all major brain disorders. Two-thirds of Americans are obese and ninety-seven million have pre-diabetes; both conditions wreak havoc on the brain, increasing the risk of depression and dementia.

First, let’s agree that the mind stems from the brain. All the various neurons buzzing about create our sensations, feelings, thoughts and memories. It all starts up there. Amazing what Mother Nature has created-an electrical storm of consciousness built from food.

That’s what this blog is about: brainfood. What are the essential nutrients that should be on your plate for the best brain your genes can muster? Once you build a better brain, what should be on your plate to care for it as you age?

So why step into the Farmacy? Well, I grew up on a farm and all the molecules you need to build a better brain are there. What about the pharmacy? Hey, I’m a NYC-based psychiatrist. I have prescribed and continue to prescribe many medications, with both great successes and, admittedly, great failures. No matter what you may need from the pharmacy, every brain needs a farmacy.

Emerging science increasingly links our dietary patterns to our moods, and also to the risk of serious mental disorders like depression. Today the top source of calories for most Americans is added fats and added sugars, something you won’t find in the Farmacy. When Hippocrates stated “Let thy food be they medicine and thy medicine be thy food,” he was onto something. Many of the molecules in food actually have the same biochemical functions as some modern medications. Consider one arrow in the quiver of the modern pharmacological mixologist, the class medications called MAO-inhibitors that treat depression and dementia: Compounds in food have these same properties. Taking powerful antioxidant supplements? Science supports that the right food choices can supercharge your body’s own internal free-radical zapping systems. Add to this the attributes of other molecules I’ll be highlighting in food: natural antibiotics, antivirals, anti-inflammatories, and compounds that fight heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. I started seeing this trend over and over again while researching The Happiness Diet. Biochemical brain-building synergies that come from real, whole and, ideally, locally-farmed food-The Farmacy.

Our food has changed so much in the last few hundred years. Not only have we reduced the variety of foods we eat, but our relationship to many brain essential nutrients has radically shifted. Industrial trans fats now linked to depression, heart disease and diabetes first entered our food supply just 100 years ago. As a population we have fallen prey to a very interesting problem; we are overfed with the wrong calories and undernourished with the very ones our brain thrives on. Deficiencies of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and iron are quite common in America. Along with these shortages come a slew of neurotoxins from the modern chemistry lab used to color, preserve and make food today. Additionally, the most common source of long-term environmental toxins like PCB, dioxins, BPA, and pesticides, is, for most people, their food.

So, it’s time for a tune-up: a proverbial oil change of your brain lube, some new tires that grip the road a little better. The Farmacy even can give provide a little more horsepower upstairs. That’s the power of food.

The above posting is my once-monthly blog for Psychology Today called, The Farmacy. I cross-post it here, but you can check out the original version online here: Eat to Build a Better Brain.

Eat Complete

Winner of a 2017 IACP Cookbook Award  •  Finalist for a Books for a Better Life Award

Named one of the top health and wellness books for 2016 by Well + Good and MindBodyGreen

 

From leading psychiatrist and author of Fifty Shades of Kale comes a collection of 100 simple, delicious, and affordable recipes to help you get the core nutrients your brain and body need to stay happy and healthy.

What does food have to do with brain health? Everything.

Your brain burns more of the food you eat than any other organ. It determines if you gain or lose weight, if you’re feeling energetic or fatigued, if you’re upbeat or depressed. In this essential guide and cookbook, Drew Ramsey, MD, explores the role the human brain plays in every part of your life, including mood, health, focus, memory, and appetite, and reveals what foods you need to eat to keep your brain—and by extension your body—properly fueled.

Drawing upon cutting-edge scientific research, Dr. Ramsey identifies the twenty-one nutrients most important to brain health and overall well-being—the very nutrients that are often lacking in most people’s diets. Without these nutrients, he emphasizes, our brains and bodies don’t run the way they should.

Eat Complete includes 100 appetizing, easy, gluten-free recipes engineered for optimal nourishment. It also teaches readers how to use food to correct the nutrient deficiencies causing brain drain and poor health for millions. For example:

• Start the day with an Orange Pecan Waffle or a Turmeric Raspberry Almond Smoothie, and the Vitamin E found in the nuts will work to protect vulnerable brain fat (plus the fiber keeps you satisfied until lunch).

• Enjoy Garlic Butter Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles and Mussels with Garlicky Kale Ribbons and Artichokes, and the zinc and magnesium from the seafood will help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

• Want to slow down your brain’s aging process? Indulge with a cup of Turmeric Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the flavanols found in chocolate both increase blood flow to the brain and help fight age-related memory decline.

Featuring fifty stunning, full-color photographs, Eat Complete helps you pinpoint the nutrients missing from your diet and gives you tasty recipes to transform your health—and ultimately your life.

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The Happiness Diet

For the first time in history, too much food is making us sick. It's all too apparent that the Modern American Diet (MAD) is expanding our waistlines; what's less obvious is that it's starving and shrinking our brains. Rates of obesity and depression have recently doubled, and while these epidemics are closely linked, few experts are connecting the dots for the average American.

Using the latest data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Dietshows that over the past several generations small, seemingly insignificant changes to our diet have stripped it of nutrients--like magnesium, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D, as well as some very special fats--that are essential for happy, well-balanced brains. These shifts also explain the overabundance of mood-destroying foods in the average American's diet and why they predispose most of us to excessive weight gain.

After a clear explanation of how we've all been led so far astray, The Happiness Diet empowers the reader with simple, straightforward solutions. Graham and Ramsey show you how to steer clear of this MAD way of life with foods to swear off, shopping tips, brain-building recipes, and other practical advice, and then remake your diet by doubling down on feel-good foods--even the all-American burger.

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Fifty Shades of Kale

Kale gets sexy in Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey, M.D., and Jennifer Iserloh, with 50 recipes that are mouth-wateringly delicious and do a body good.
 
Release yourself from the bondage of guilt and start cooking meals with the ingredients you love: meat, cheese, and yes—even butter. Nutrient-rich kale provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy, and lean—so you can indulge in your most delicious desires. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a real kale submissive, you will undoubtedly succumb to Kale’s charms.

From Mushroom and Kale Risotto to Kale Kiwi Gazpacho, Fifty Shade of Kale offers simple ways to have your kale and eat it, too, as well as nutritional information, cooking tips, and a tutorial on kale in all her glorious shades.
 
Indulge your culinary passions with Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh and Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please.

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