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Your Brain On Food: Dr. Uma Naidoo On The Intersection Of Nutrition & Mental Health

By June 20, 2024No Comments
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Episode #840



Mental health has long been viewed as an “above-the-neck” concept, with treatments focusing on talk therapy, medication, and nominal lifestyle changes

However, we are now beginning to understand that mental well-being is intricately connected to the rest of our body, revealing a more holistic picture. 

This realization compels us to reassess a largely disregarded factor—the influence of our dietary choices on our mental well-being.

My guest today is Dr. Uma Naidoo, a pioneer in the nascent field of nutritional psychiatry. Dr. Naidoo is a board-certified nutritional psychiatrist on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, a professional chef, and author. She established the first hospital-based Nutritional Psychiatry Service in the US at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her career has focused on understanding the complex links between diet and mental health, revealing how nutrition can influence our cognitive and emotional states.

Dr. Naidoo’s research illustrates how the gut and the brain are intricately linked, with trillions of microbes in our digestive tract playing a crucial role in regulating mood, stress response, and cognitive function. By revealing how specific nutrients and dietary patterns can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other common mental health disorders, she provides a science-backed roadmap for using food as medicine for the mind. She is the author of the international bestseller This is Your Brain on Food, and her latest book, Calm Your Mind With Food, is a primer on the nexus between diet and anxiety.

“Food is some of the most potent mental health medicine available.”


Today, we explore the gut-brain axis and how this bidirectional communication system profoundly influences our mental well-being. Dr. Naidoo explains the intricate relationship between diet and neurotransmitter production, particularly focusing on serotonin, a crucial mood regulator.

In her approach to nutritional psychiatry, Dr. Naidoo outlines the “Six Pillars” that form the foundation of a brain-healthy diet. She emphasizes the importance of whole foods, plant-based options, and specific nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. These dietary choices support overall health and play a vital role in maintaining optimal brain function.

Dr. Naidoo highlights the detrimental effects of ultra-processed foods and excessive sugar consumption on brain health and their links to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

To combat these issues, Dr. Naidoo offers practical dietary recommendations and meal ideas to enhance focus, cognitive function, and overall mental wellness. By incorporating a variety of whole foods, such as leafy greens, berries, nuts, and fatty fish, individuals can provide their brains with the necessary nutrients to thrive.

For those who prefer a visual experience, the conversation is available on YouTube. As always, the audio version streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Whether you’re struggling with mental health challenges, seeking to optimize your cognitive performance, or simply curious about the cutting-edge science of nutritional psychiatry, this conversation is a must-listen. 

Note: Dr. Naidoo elaborates on today’s show themes in her new MasterClass Brain Health series. To learn more and sign up, click HERE.


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