Did you know your diet can not only affect your physical health, but also your mental health?
There are a lot of discussions these days about the benefits of a healthy diet. Eating well has been shown to improve mental clarity, physical energy, and overall health. But what many people don’t realize is that diet also affects mood and can play a role in preventing or managing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. By making some simple changes to your diet, you can enjoy better mental and physical health for years to come.
Friends, welcome back to The School of Greatness. My guest today is Dr. Uma Naidoo. She is described by Michelin-starred chef David Bouley as the world’s first “triple threat” in the food and medicine space for being a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, a professional chef, and a highly-trained nutritional specialist.
In this episode, we discuss the best and worst foods for your mental health, the benefits and negative effects of different types of foods, how to optimize your brain health, how to develop strong nutritional habits and drop the unhealthy habits, and so much more.
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a well-known nutritional psychiatrist who founded the first hospital-based Nutritional Psychiatry Service in the United States. She also serves as the Director of Lifestyle & Nutritional Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). As a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, she was considered as Harvard’s Mood-Food expert, and she was even featured in the Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Naidoo is also a national bestselling author of the book This Is Your Brain On Food, where she shows the cutting-edge science on how food contributes to our mental health and how a sound diet can help treat and prevent various psychological and cognitive health issues from anxiety, OCD, depression, ADHD, and others.
I really love this episode, and I know there’s so much we can do to prevent the stress, anxiety, and worry that could potentially come into our future. A lot of it comes down to the nutritional optimization of the brain foods that we eat on a daily basis. This is fascinating stuff on how our brain is constantly being affected by the foods that we eat.
If you’re like most people, you probably think about the food you eat in terms of taste and how it makes you feel. What you may not realize is that the food you eat has a profound impact on your health. No matter what your dietary preference may be, it’s important to have a general understanding of the benefits and negative effects associated with different types of foods so you can make more informed choices about what to eat, which will help you stay healthy and feel great.
“The food we eat impacts our mental wellbeing. [It] is newer science that has come forward. … I do think that environment, genetics, psychosocial factors, and many other things also play into one’s emotional well-being, but … by cleaning up a certain amount of how we eat, … I have seen people show significant improvement, and really the path to this is[by] understanding [that] it’s not a quick fix. It’s not an overnight thing. It’s really a … lifestyle change.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
Making a change to your lifestyle is just as important as making changes to your diet when it comes to improving your mental health. Adding regular exercise and getting enough sleep are both crucial aspects of maintaining good mental health, and they’re habits that can be hard to fit into a busy schedule. However, it’s worth making an effort because both exercise and sleep have been shown to have positive effects on mood, stress levels, and overall mental well-being.
We all know that we should be taking care of our bodies, eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep, but what about our brains? Just like our other organs, our brains need to be taken care of in order to function at their best.
“Some of these answers are also dependent on understanding the science of the microbiome because each of our microbiomes is a psycho thumbprint. So a response a person has to the food is also dependent on their quota of microbes in the gut, and therefore, the response times change. So I’ve seen people start to feel emotionally better, and the condition that I see, probably the most robust change, is either depression or anxiety. People do, when they start to make those shifts, start to feel better.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
What’s going on in your gut is intimately connected to what’s happening in your brain. There seems to be a complex relationship between the microbiome and the brain, and it’s clear that keeping your gut happy is essential for keeping your brain healthy too. When we eat unhealthy foods, our bodies often respond with negative symptoms. By limiting the number of unhealthy foods we eat and replacing them with healthier options, we can start to see healing in our bodies. So drop the unhealthy eating habits and start developing strong nutritional habits to stay healthy and strong.
There’s no question that developing strong nutritional habits and dropping unhealthy habits is key to achieving good health. Unfortunately, it can be tough to stick to a healthy diet, especially when our unhealthy ones are so entrenched. But with a little effort and determination, you can break your bad eating patterns and develop healthy ones for the long haul.
“By cutting out or limiting a bad eating habit or … a less healthy eating habit, they’re starting to notice a change. … Usually, we know from the science of the microbiome that it takes about 28 days … to heal. So usually within the first month is a good guideline to say, … if you really are following this [healthy diet], … if you’re doing it 80% of the time, … and you really are limiting those foods that could be driving your condition, … [you will] start to feel better.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
Healing takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it definitely doesn’t happen by accident. If you’re struggling with an illness or injury, the best thing you can do is to focus on your health and give your body the time it needs to heal. Eating a healthy diet is a crucial part of the healing process, so make sure to stick to a balanced diet and avoid unhealthy foods as much as possible. Taking care of yourself should be your top priority if you want to make a speedy recovery.
“Over time, it really gets better. And if they’re sticking with it, it becomes almost part of how they live, … and because they’re feeling a lot better, they keep doing it. They keep doing it, and that’s the hook.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
There are a lot of things in life that people do just because they feel like they have to. But when you find something that makes you feel good, you’ll keep doing it, no matter what anyone else says. Changing your diet and starting to exercise can be one of those things. When you start seeing that you’re feeling a lot better, you’ll be more motivated to keep going.
“The great thing with nutrition and changing around how you’re eating is that it can help you all along because that’s working no matter what else is going on. It’s improving because it’s working in the gut microbiome and the whole gut-brain system, and it’s helping you.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of our lives. The food we eat affects every part of our bodies, from our brain function to our immune system. But the gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract — is equally crucial for good health. A healthy gut microbiome helps us digest food properly and absorb nutrients, while a dysfunctional microbiome can lead to inflammation and other health problems. It’s more important than ever to make sure we are eating foods that support a healthy gut microbiome.
Guys, this interview is packed with so many words of wisdom from our guest, Dr. Uma Naidoo. Listen to the full episode for more, and don’t forget to share it with someone you think needs to hear it. You could be a life-changer to someone today.
Follow Dr. Uma on social media. She’s on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out her website as well, where you can get a copy of Good Food for a Calm Mood Guide straight to your inbox when you sign up for her newsletter.
To conclude this episode, I asked Dr. Uma or her definition of greatness, and her answer is very remarkable:
“[Greatness is] truly being yourself. If you are able to reach that place within yourself [and] to be confident in yourself, I truly think that makes you the greatest that you can be on this Earth.” – Dr. Uma Naidoo
People often chase after greatness, thinking that it’s something that they need to attain in order to be happy or fulfilled. But what if greatness is not about becoming something else, but rather embracing who you already are? True greatness comes from within, and it starts with being confident in yourself. So don’t try to be someone else — be yourself, and let your true greatness shine through. You’ll find that happiness and fulfillment will follow. So, go out there, be yourself, and do something great today, and if no one’s told you lately, then I want to remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter.