Holiday Brainfood Swaps - Drew Ramsey MD

Image courtesy Flickr/FLORENTIN Marius

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but with a parade of boozy holiday parties, family get-togethers, and shopping list anxiety in an era of austerity, moods tend to tank. But never fear as a trip to the Farmacy can help ensure you still have a merry little Christmas. To help keep your Ho Ho Ho free of Boo Hoo Hoo here are my top Holiday Farmacy Food Swaps.

  • Dark Chocolate Orange Slices (or ginger, lemon and orange rind) instead of Candy Canes:

Holiday Brainfood SwapsThe power of cacoa, the fruit used to make chocolate, to boost energy, mood and concentration is increasingly backed by science. Along with a set of powerful antioxidants, dark chocolate can actually improve blood flow to the brain. Studies show it also improves focus, key for late night present wrapping sessions. Dark chocolate is also packed with brain essential minerals iron, magnesium and zinc. The bitter citrus rind adds powerful antioxidants such as epicatechin and soothing, euphoria promoting molecules like hesperidin . However, if you must indulge in the occasional candy cane (I know I can’t make it through the holidays without a at least a few), find one that’s dipped in dark chocolate. Every little bit helps right?

  • Pasture Raised Pork Loin or Slow Pork instead of a Conventional Christmas Ham:

This fall I went on a ham quest. I wandered the aisles of grocery stores in the Midwest looking for some natural, tasty smoked pork. It was a long search. Conventional hams are injected with sugar and salt, even fillers to retain water. If you’ve got family members with celiac disease, gluten intolerance/sensitivity, you’ve probably noticed the “gluten free” signs in the grocery store. How’d the wheat protein up in your ham? MADness. Check out The Happiness Diet for a delicious Slow Pork recipe.

  • Wild Salmon instead of Farmed Filet Mignon:

My Dad is the most frugal brainfood shopper I know. Scouring the aisles for deals, he will bring home whole sides of frozen wild salmon any time they are marked down. Packed with the long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, this is a must for one of your holiday meals. These fats are essential for proper brain function and data shows they even preserve memory as you age. I regularly prescribe these fats in my clinical practice to improve mood. They’ll help keep you stable, cool, calm, and caroling. You also get a dose of B12, iodine, zinc, and complete protein to ensure your neurotransmitter factories will be humming.

  • Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Gratin instead of Marshmallow Sweet Potato Casserole:

The naturally sweet and healthy sweet potato is one of nature’s top sources of beta-carotene, which is linked to improved brain health as you age. I love to grill these. Or make a simple gratin slicing them thinly, layering with some local grassfed cheese and then baking covered for 45 minutes at 375. If you must sweeten a little, use some molasses and you’re adding iron, vitamin B6, and calcium too.


  • Vegetable Frittata served with Flaxseed toast and Fruit Salad instead of Hot Cross Buns:

Maybe you can’t touch your family’s big sticky white frosted Hot Cross Bun tradition, but cutting out sugar and refined carbs is key to a better, more regulated mood and a healthier brain. You can’t go wrong with any farm fresh egg and vegetable combination. Make your toast flaxseed you’ll get some ALA omega-3s fats that protect the brain. A simple fuit salad means ample vitamin C, inflammation-fighting phytonutrients, and fiber

  • BrainFood Nut Mix instead of Peanuts:

Instead of a pre-salted stale bowl of peanuts, supercharge your holiday nut mix. I suggest you make a mix of walnuts (a plethora of the omega-3 fat ALA), almonds (loaded with vitamin E that protects your brain fat), and a few Brazil nuts (packed selenium deficiencies of which are linked to depression). We take an extra step in our house and roast these in the toaster oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes after mixing with rosemary and a little sea salt. Compounds in rosemary are being studied for their brain-protecting abilities and simply the smell puts a smile on my face.

  • Hopped Up, Beasty Local Beer instead of Sugary Mixed Drinks:

 Nobody likes to hear it, but limiting the booze is key to surviving the holidays. One easy swap is serving a great local hoppy beer. You’ll get a little built in regulation on your alcohol intake compared with a sugary vodka drink. The bitter flavors in hoppy beers like IPAs come from a cancer and inflammation fighting phytonutrient called xanthohumol. Find something bottle conditioned with some yeast beasts in the bottom of the bottle and swig them down to get all the B vitamins you need for a better brain (except B12).

Have a wonderful, safe, and Happy Holiday Season, A Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Looking forward to helping you Eat to Build a Better Brain in 2012.

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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