Drew Ramsey, MD, a psychiatrist in New York who lives on a family farm in Indiana, introduced me to nutritional psychiatry. I did not realize such psychiatrists existed; it turns out they have international meetings. Leading the way is psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, who has authored over 30 books and established more than 7,000 clinics. I give him credit for being an “out-of-the-box” thinker and his work is outstanding.
Dr. Ramsey’s Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety specifically addresses the two most common mental illnesses and how we can eat to avoid and treat them. Ramsey started out in traditional psychiatry, prescribing drugs for mental health conditions. The results were disappointing. He found that healthy foods were much more powerful for healing the brain, and he is now a leading practitioner of nutritional psychiatry.
The emphasis in the book is on what foods to eat, which are summarized below. Ramsey does not place as much emphasis on what not to eat and assumes that people are unwilling to give up their favorite foods. My knowledge suggests that consuming sugar and lots of high glycemic carbs leads to mental health problems. The same may occur with inflammatory foods such as those that trigger gluten sensitivity. To his credit, Ramsey mentions such foods in the last part of his book.
The best foods to eat to beat depression and anxiety are:
- Leafy greens. Ramsey power player: kale
- Rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables. Power players: red peppers and avocados
- Seafood. Power players: wild salmon, anchovies and mussels
- Nuts, beans and seeds. Ramsey power players: pumpkin seeds, cashews and red beans
- I think there are healthier seeds like flax and chia, healthier nuts — especially walnuts —for brain health, and healthier beans than red beans, which can be dangerous if not cooked.
- Grass-fed or pasture-raised meat. Look for regenerative farms.
- Eggs and dairy. Quality eggs are a brain superfood; eat the yolks. All dairy should be organic and full fat.
- Dark chocolate. Must be 70 percent or more cocoa, a good source of flavanols, magnesium, zinc, iron, protein, fiber and potassium.
Dr. Ramsey encourages his patients to transition to these foods gradually to avoid a sudden disruption to the gut microbiome. He emphasizes that a healthy microbiome is critical for brain health since this “organ” has a major impact on our moods. There are more neurotransmitters in the gut than in the brain.
Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety is a fun read from a very likable psychiatrist and may be helpful in not only getting someone to eat healthier but also getting those affected off medications.
Dr. Joe is founder of Restore Health in Indian Wells, a clinic dedicated to weight loss and reversing disease. For more information, visit www.restorehealth.me or call (760) 898.9663.