Diet Tips from a Psychiatrist: Reconsider Supplements and Eat Real Food | Drew Ramsey

Diet Tips from a Psychiatrist: Reconsider Supplements and Eat Real Food | Drew Ramsey

November 6, 2019 50 By Bertrand Dibbert


A lot of people like to talk about multivitamins
and how they’re an insurance policy. And it’s always confused me as a doctor. Do you really think there’s an insurance policy
for not eating well or not exercising or moving your body or not living in a compassionate
and peaceful way? There’s no insurance policy for that. When you don’t eat well you get sick. And that’s one of the reasons that I really
promote a food first philosophy that certainly if people have a deficiency, for example,
if you have an illness like pernicious anemia where your body doesn’t allow you to absorb
B12, of course you have to take a B12 supplement. Or if you’re severely iron deficient, take
an iron supplement. But over the long term what we really want
to see is that people are getting their nutrients from food. So some of the reasons for this aren’t about
nutrition, they’re about community, that when you’re engaged when your food and your food
supply, when, for example, you go to a farmers market or if you have kids if you take them
to a farm and teach them about where our food comes from that really creates a different
philosophy or a different mindset about nutrition and about how we nourish ourselves. Certainly you can live on a multivitamin and
sipping on some coconut oil, but that to me doesn’t create a great meal. And that’s really where I think about my favorite
healthy delivery system, it’s the dinner table where as people sit around there’s a lot more
going on than just the food. My family we’re talking and we’re processing
the day and we’re trying something new. Even just engaging with your food the creative
process of cooking, you take some of these wonderful food I just sort of picked up at
the deli and I thought well we can just whip up a little quick salad, add in lots of fats
and proteins with these nuts and seeds, s little leafy green with the watercress. I’ve never made a salad that has those ingredients
but it’s a creative and fun process in a way to engage. I think that’s a big difference the idea of
starting your day taking a set of pills that someone has prescribed for you or that we
have thought about as that’s what makes you healthy as opposed to really seeking out the
top food sources. And food is really the foundation of your
health. There’s also some differences in terms of
absorption. There’s some molecules, for example, that
just aren’t in multivitamins or aren’t in as good of a form I would say. Things like a vitamin E. In the natural world
there are eight forms of vitamin E, in supplements there’s one form. In all these foods that I love to talk about
the leafy greens and lemons and red peppers there are a host of what’s called Fido nutrients
or plant-based nutrients. And these are really the miracle molecules
of why plant-based diet are just so incredibly good for our health because they’re signaling
molecules. They literally travel from the end of our
fork into our DNA and change how our genes get expressed and they turn on genes that
keep us healthy. So that’s another way that supplements and
real food differ as you get these Fido nutrients. I like the idea that food becomes a way of
nourishing the self in a way that a supplement really can’t. There are a lot of beliefs in supplements
but really you can get all of the nutrients that you find in supplements in whole good
nourishing organic foods. Another important perspective when we think
about brain health is it allows us to look at certain food trends in certain ways that
you can take something that people think of as healthy like juicing or a smoothie. If you look at a smoothie for a lot of people
it’s often a lot of tropical fruits and maybe some low-fat milk or yogurt and really it’s
a lot of simple sugars. And we want people to have a more robust meal
with her smoothie. So all the smoothies in Eat Complete have
seeds or nuts in them because I’m trying to increase the fat content in a smoothie and
increase of the protein content. Now fat has been a bad word for way too long. I hope that everyone now is considering fat
as something that’s really healthy. One reason is your brain is mainly made of
fat and your brain is amazing. Human brains are amazing so fats are very,
very important to brain function. And also it’s important in terms of staying
full that when we eat fats and proteins and complex carbohydrates our bodies just stay
full longer so you’re eating fewer calories and that helps move you towards an optimal
weight. So really eating for brain health helps you
look at something like a smoothie and say I want to get as much of the whole food as
possible. It’s why the smoothies in our house I don’t
usually juice ever in our house, we just throw the whole food in there whether it’s kale,
blueberries, some kaffir, a little fermented dairy product, some almonds, for example,
and blend it up where I’m really, again, trying to deliver a lot of nutrition in a small dose. The other thing I like about smoothies is
often times I’m working with patients who are depressed and they don’t have a lot of
appetite so it’s a little bit of a paradox, we know they need to eat much better in terms
of really to restore their full health. So they don’t have a big appetite so something
like a smoothie with, again, lots of nuts and seeds and some healthy fats really can
help them because it goes down easy and it’s in a small, small amount. There are a number of myths that I think are
also really important to dispel about eating for your health. One is the myth that it costs too much. I grew up in a food desert in Crawford County
Indiana, very rural Indiana and a food desert is a place that there isn’t fresh food and
there aren’t grocery stores. And what’s very interesting about where I
grew up is there are a lot of farms. So you’d wonder how is there a food desert? And we see what’s happening really over the
last ten years in America is a change in how we get our food. Increasingly we’re having food delivered to
us. Increasingly we’re having farms, like right
here in New York City one of my favorite farms is on a rooftop across the river, huge farm;
feeds hundreds of families called Brooklyn Grange Farm. So in terms of access we really see things
shifting where there are great policies in the many states now where food stamps are
two for one in a farmers market. So there’s this redistribution of how we think
about food and food dollars, but access can be a huge issue so how do you find access? There are lots of great resources to help
you find local farms in your area. A CSA or community supported agriculture is
a way that for a few hundred dollars you can get a big box of produce every single week. And so there’s all kinds of little tips and
hacks in terms of how you can get this food into your diet without spending a lot of money. Eat Complete is a plant-based book. Plants cost less money than things like meat
and even a lot of processed foods. So when I think about how to describe what
is a healthy food to people I talk about the rule of kale. That kale has been a phenomenon and even there’s
a little bit of kale backlash now, but really the point is that kale teaches us a lesson. There’s three lessons. The rules of kale are we want to look for
foods that are nutrient dense, more nutrients per calorie. The difference between a kale salad is a bevy
of nutrition and good feeling and something like a soda or a marshmallow, just sugar no
nutrients for your brain. We want everybody to be nutrient dense food. The second rule kale is about culinary versatility,
that you can do a lot with it. I mean you might not think so. Back in the day kale was just in the salad
bar at Pizza Hut. It’s like the third circle of hell for kale,
but culinary versatility is that you can use kale in a lot of different things. You can drop it in your smoothie; you’ve just
increased the nutrient density of that smoothie. You can make a kale pesto or a kale soup or
a kale salad and put a nice piece of salmon or wild shrimp on top of it. You can make a kalejito even. You can use it and all kinds of ways creatively. And then the third is accessibility. Kale grows everywhere. It’s $2 to $3 dollars for a big bunch of organic
kale. You can make a giant batch of kale chips. You can feed a family of four for probably
a week on a few dollars of kale. And so that’s really I think where the accessibility
issue hits home for me is that we forget to teach people about proper nutrition and about
our relationship with the food supply and we don’t learn these basic culinary skills. I’m not a great chef. I have a chef’s knife and my cutting board
and some olive oil and that’s the base of almost all of my dishes and a cast-iron skillet. Simply combining good wholesome foods together
it ends up being just absolutely delicious and incredibly nutritious. And that’s the goal and I think we have to
really understand that for a lot of people the barrier is money and time. And one of my favorite little tips is around
dried beans and lentils. So dried beans here in Manhattan $2.29 a pound
for the small red bean. The small red bean has more Fido nutrients
or antioxidants per gram that any other food, even more than blueberries. So an example of really, really low cost point
very, very nutritious food. And then time. And part of my focus in Eat Complete was trying
to find very, very simple quick recipes for people to employ in their every day life. Because as a clinician I really am on the
front line of seeing the difference of sort of telling people what to eat and helping
them really change their behavior. I meet with a lot of eaters where it’s very
clear to me they know exactly what they should be eating, but how you actualize that, how
you manifest that in your every day life is the challenge. And that’s where dispelling these myths like
it takes forever. I cooked breakfast for my kids and my wife
this morning in five or ten minutes. It’s simple, oatmeal with some almond butter
scooped on top of it. If I want to get fancy maybe I’ll put a little
lemon zest on there, a little cinnamon, maybe drop in some fruit; simple, simple whole foods. A real easy test of your food is look at your
plate and everything should have one ingredient. You’re looking at brussels sprouts maybe with
a little bacon in there or you’re looking at wild salmon with a garlic scape pesto,
all things that you recognize and know as opposed to reading gradients on the back of
a package where those foods are generally created for the shelf; they’re not really
created for your health.