Friday, June 12, 2015

Nutrition and Mental Health: Dr. Ramsey’s 5 Rules for Eating for Happiness

Dr. Drew Ramsey
A growing body of research is confirming the relationship between a good, quality diet and better mental health outcomes. Poor diet (generally defined as greater consumption of saturated fats and refined and processed foods and lower consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish and nutrient-dense foods) has been associated with depression, anxiety and ADHD. A recent review of studies focused on children and adolescents found a consistent trend in the relationship between a healthy diet and better mental health.(1)

So how do you go about improving your diet and your mental health without overly complicated or restrictive regimes? Drew Ramsey, M.D., psychiatrist, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and author, has identified a simple set of 5 rules to eat for happiness—advice he gives to patients and others who want to simplify meal choices and maximize brain health.

1. Skip the processed foods. Processed foods are filled with empty calories; whole grains, lentils, nuts, leafy greens, and seafood contain brain-healthy nutrients.

2. Don’t fear fats. “Good fats,” omega-3 fats DHA and EPA found in whole foods like fish, , dairy products and pasture-raised eggs, are great for your brain. Trans fats, however, are among the unhealthiest substances and are still found in many packaged baked goods.

3. Mind your meat. While a plant-based diet is important, the right meat is an important source of protein, zinc and vitamin B12. “Grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” beef and chicken and “farm fresh” eggs are more nutritionally beneficial.

4. Go organic. Organic choices, increasingly available at most supermarkets, avoid the potential risks of insecticides and pesticides. And summer is great time to check out your local farmers’ market.

5. Make friends with farmers. Shopping at your local farmers’ market can give you added motivation to stay away from a pre-packaged processed-food diet. Getting to know the people who grow your food also offers you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what you’re eating.

As Dr. Ramsey notes: “The goal is not to become a food snob, but to make that vital connection between your fork and your feelings and choose foods that support your emotional well-being and enhance your sense of vitality.”

Follow Dr. Ramsey @DrewRamseyMD.

By Deborah Cohen, senior writer, American Psychiatric Association

(1) O’Neil A, Quirk S, Housden S, et al. 2014. Relationship between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health, 104:10, e31-41.

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