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Show 1237: Improving Your Mood With Food

It's easy to feel depressed or anxious in times like these, but you can improve your mood with food. Listen and learn how!
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Improving Your Mood With Food

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Working from home during the pandemic has wrought havoc with a lot of healthy eating habits. It’s harder to shop safely, and minimizing time in the grocery store may mean people have stocked up on shelf-stable highly processed foods. What’s more, lots of us have been responding to stress by eating sweet or salty treats that are appealing in the short run but may not benefit our health over the long term. Are there ways you can improve your mood with food?

Connecting Psychiatry and Nutrition:

We don’t usually connect nutritional wellbeing and mental health, but our guest, psychiatrist, nutrition specialist and chef Uma Naidoo, MD, thinks we should. Changing dietary habits can have a profound impact on our emotional status. How did Dr. Naidoo come to follow such an unusual career path?

Foods That Help Fight Depression and Anxiety:

There are intimate connections between the digestive tract and the central nervous system. What fuels this gut-brain romance, and what disrupts it? When people are eating not from hunger but from stress, how can they interrupt that behavior? It can be especially challenging in the middle of the pandemic. Dr. Naidoo discusses foods that can help reduce depression and anxiety so you can improve your mood with food. High-fiber foods, such as an easy lentil and spinach soup she describes, can be particularly helpful.

Boosting Your Memory With Food:

Food can impact your cognitive capacity as well as your emotional condition. Surprisingly, spices may have the power to boost memory. Dr. Naidoo offers the following recipe featuring rosemary from her new book.

Southern French–Style Scallops (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Scallops are delicious and easy to cook. They are a great way to impress friends with your chef skills. This gluten-free recipe highlights the memory-boosting benefits of rosemary and omega-3s.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 pound bay scallops (or sea scallops, halved horizontally)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more if desired
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more if desired
  • 2 tablespoons organic gluten-­free flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary (or ¾ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-­leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon

Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper and then toss them in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the olive oil in a large stainless- steel sauté pan on high heat. Add the scallops in a single layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on one side. They will release from the pan when ready; turn them over and let them brown lightly on the other side. The scallops should cook for about 4 minutes in total. Remove the scallops and set aside in a medium bowl. Add the shallots, garlic, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley to the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Return the scallops to the pan and add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Zest the lemon over the scallops and sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Season with additional salt and black pepper. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.

From This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More by Uma Naidoo, MD, Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If you are a beginning or hesitant cook, Dr. Naidoo offers encouragement. Learn how you can improve your mood with food.

This Week’s Guest:

Uma Naidoo, MD, MBCHB, is Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. A board-certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist, she also serves on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Naidoo is the author of This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, November 30, 2020, after broadcast on November 28. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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