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Food is medicine for your mind. What you put in your body BECOMES your body, so if you’re stuggling with brain health-related issues, the best place to start is on your plate. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen are once again joined by Harvard health blog writer Dr. Uma Naidoo for a discussion on which foods can help you increase your focus and attention.
For more info on Dr. Naidoo’s new book “This is Your Brain on Food”, visit https://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Brain-Food-Indispensable/dp/0316536822
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Daniel Amen, MD: Welcome back. We are here with Dr. Uma Naidoo, a psychiatrist, nutritionist, chef, expert on food and mood and food and energy and food and focus, food and memory food in your mind.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: Mental health.
Daniel Amen, MD: This is your brain on food.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: And why don’t you read the website for this-
Daniel Amen, MD: August 4th. UmaNaidooMD.com, U-M-A-N-A-I-D-O-O-M-D.com. The book will be available everywhere. It’s published by Little Brown, that publishes many of our friends, Mark Hyman and David Perlmutter. We’re just very excited to meet you and spend time with you.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Thank you so much.
Daniel Amen, MD: And if you learn something during this podcast, post it on any of your social media. I mean, write it down, take a picture of it, post it, and then hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. We’re now eight and a half million downloads. We’re so grateful to all of you that are listening, but we want you to get this book. Brain warriors, they’re armed, prepared, and aware to win the fight of their lives starts with food. It starts with what you put in your body.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: One thing I wanted to address with you too, at some point, maybe we can talk about, because like you said, you address the fact that we are a culture that likes sweet foods. And we talked about the Mediterranean diet. And I remember I got so hooked on the dessert when we were on our Mediterranean cruises when we were in Greece.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Delicious.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: They have cold Greek yogurt with a tiny bit of honey drizzled on it with walnuts. Everywhere you go, that’s what they have for dessert. And it was so much simpler than our ice cream and all these things.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Absolutely.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: They had a little honey, but not much, but it didn’t have all the processed chemicals and all this stuff. And I got hooked on it. I was just like, “That is such a good idea.”
Uma Naidoo, MD: And it’s so delicious.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: Right. So good.
Uma Naidoo, MD: And you could have it … I totally agree with that. I love that, and the creaminess of the Greek yogurt makes it even better. The drizzle of honey that you add on.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: Crunchiness.
Uma Naidoo, MD: The crunchiness of the walnuts. It’s all great brain food right there. It’s your key biotics. Honey is glucose. It goes directly to your brain. So that’s a great food for you. And in moderation. We’re not saying have a jug of it. And I liked that there’s almost an emphasis on healthier options for desserts. I think that where we sometimes get into trouble here is that I’ll just have to, and trust me, I love to bake. I learned to bake before I learned how to cook. But part of my challenge is I try to figure out, is there a way that I can make this cupcake healthier? I made a chocolate cupcake recently with zucchini it it.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: That sounds like me. Yeah.
Uma Naidoo, MD: With zucchini alternate types of flour to see, can I change it around, but have it still look like a cupcake? So it’s all of those little things. And there’s this is cool stuff about chocolate where chocolate we know is a great brain food, but it’s the super dark chocolate. And it’s really telling people the right kind of chocolate to eat.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: Without all the sugar in it, right.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Without all the added sugar and fats in it. And it also turns out that the process of roasting the cacao beans into the process by which chocolate is made, the super dark form has fermentation involved. So, it’s potentially also a good food for your gut. So, I like to recommend super dark chocolate and try to give people guidelines about the types to get, because it requires a little bit of client taste.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: They look simple.
Daniel Amen, MD: In here. Oh, but they’re delicious, unlike golden milk. I’m not a fan of dairy because most people, we’re lactose intolerant.
Uma Naidoo, MD: True.
Daniel Amen, MD: But let me finish. A cup of almond milk, a teaspoon of ground turmeric, a quarter teaspoon of black pepper, half teaspoon of honey, and a quarter teaspoon of grated nutmeg.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: That sounds amazing.
Daniel Amen, MD: And it sounds delicious and it’s good for you. So, you love it and it loves you back. We never want to be in an abusive relationship with food, but we have to talk about PTSD because I want to talk about some of these psychiatric … because that’s why people come to see us. Either they’re struggling or they love someone who’s struggling. So, talk to us about PTSD and food, because so many people are traumatized today.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Absolutely. It’s becoming so much a part of what’s going on. And I have to say, it’s probably some of the stuff that we’re experiencing during this current stage of life or phase of the universe, I should say, that for different reasons, people are just either … Some of my patients, even at the beginning, were traumatized by watching all the COVID statistics across the screen. And it turns out that there are certain foods we can embrace, and that’s how we try to frame the lesson. I should also say that these sheets at little tables we have at the end of each chapter, there’s some overlap because understanding that someone may pick up the book because they have PTSD, someone else may pick it up for depression, someone else may have both. So there is some overlap of the foods, but we also looked at the specific foods for a specific diagnosis.
And it turns out that even half a cup of blueberries a day can help individuals who’ve had PTSD and help them through it. So including that in breakfast or as a healthy snack would be great. We come back to the Omega-3s. They’re good in so many different disorders that my attitude about that is if you can eat foods that have Omega-3s, why not? It’s not going to harm you. It’s only going to be good for you. And it also helps symptoms of trauma. It also turns out that vitamin E helps out. Again, we come back to the turmeric. And then the other food we found was that ginkgo biloba had some positive effects. I do try to stick more with foods though.
So I tend to give people more of a list that moves toward what foods can you use and what foods can you eat. And then I also ask them to be aware of things like sources of glutamates, because those actually are one of the foods you want to avoid. So if you’re going to a Chinese restaurant, simple thing, like just ask for MSG free food or make choices or go to restaurants that you know don’t have those types of things in them.
Daniel Amen, MD: I actually have scans on and off MSG. And MSG for vulnerable people, disrupts their brain. And so does red dye number 40 for some. And so trying to eat whole food, clean food is critical. What about for ADHD?
Uma Naidoo, MD: If I can just go back to the point about the red dye, you’re absolutely right because the other foods that go along with avoiding glutamates and the MSG type foods, are actually all the processed foods. Those are things, we know that we should stay away from the high sugared foods and things like that. And then the interesting thing with ADHD is that some of the studies didn’t necessarily show that that sugar was the worst offender, but we always want to be a little bit careful about that. Things that did help, we have actually a recipe for a smoothie. And what did is a study that had shown improvement in symptoms of ADHD. What they had done in this is created a breakfast bar for the study and because this breakfast bar, and usually some of those breakfast bars that we buy commercially could be highly sugared or have different things in them. What we did is we took that study and the information from the breakfast bar and we turned it into a smoothie in the book.
So, one of the things we suggest is that, firstly breakfast is a really important meal, especially for individuals with ADHD, and we suggest that they eat something. So we created the smoothie for that reason. Then we give them guidelines around things like caffeine. Staying to a low amount, if you do drink coffee, even certain teas, stick to a moderate amount, stick to the low end of the amounts because they can make your symptoms feel worse. And embrace foods like berries, cherries, eggplant, onions, kale, green tea, all of that because of the polyphenols that are so good for the symptoms. And foods that have vitamin C and vitamin B in them. And then, the good minerals that we know help us, such as zinc, magnesium, potassium. And those are some of the things that you really want to embrace in order to help your symptoms along.
Daniel Amen, MD: So, you have ADHD. So I looked up the chocolate protein smoothie. One cup of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of walnuts, a scoop of vanilla whey protein. We actually make vegetarian.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: I don’t do well with whey, and some of our people-
Daniel Amen, MD: Some of our people don’t.
Uma Naidoo, MD: That’s right. It’s an easy substitution. Yeah.
Daniel Amen, MD: [crosstalk [00:10:53], we have a vanilla protein powder that’s so clean. But whey protein, a tablespoon of flax seeds, a teaspoon of organic instant coffee powder. That’s interesting.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: That sounds yummy.
Daniel Amen, MD: Teaspoon of natural cocoa powder, coconut flakes, honey and a quarter ripe avocado.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: That sounds so good.
Daniel Amen, MD: Think of the nutrients in that.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: That actually sounds healthier. One thing I would do when I’d get up really early and go to the gym, I just didn’t have time to make breakfast, but I knew I needed the energy, so I’d make quarter calf coffee. So, I would do quarter calf coffee, I would throw a scoop of protein powder in there, a little bit of MCT oil, but the avocado is healthier. But that’s would be my breakfast.
Uma Naidoo, MD: Exactly.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: And it was on the go and it’s quick and it was good.
Uma Naidoo, MD: And some of it, again, we were trying to emulate this bar that was tested in the study, but also we just threw in a couple of extra ingredients that we thought, with whey and [inaudible [00:11:57]. And the whole idea with the espresso powder or the little bit of coffee was because you want a little bit of caffeine to get your day going, but it’s a way to contain that. So if you’ve put it in your smoothie, then we’re suggesting don’t have three cups the rest of the day and stuff like that. And I really like the fact that you brought that up about the protein powder because we were trying to create recipes that people could feel they could get the ingredients, but I think that there’s so many options. With all the recipes, I feel there are easy replacements. If you’re plant-based, you can have a cauliflower steak instead of our salmon recipe or our chicken recipe. That’s just an easy way to do that. And the same thing, if you don’t have dairy, you should just substituted with the equal amount of the protein powder that is a clean source for you.
Daniel Amen, MD: All right. When we come back, we have one more-
Tana Amen, BSN RN: I’m so excited. I feel like I can just keep going.
Daniel Amen, MD: I told you you were going to be happy.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: There’s so many things I want to say.
Daniel Amen, MD: We have one more episode with Dr. Uma Naidoo, a psychiatrist, chef, nutritionist, really leader. And Food is Medicine For Your Mind, you can pre-order her book now, UmaNaidooMD.com. It’s also going to be everywhere great books are sold August 4th. Take a picture of it, post it on any of your social media sites. Also you can go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, leave us a comment, question or a review. We’re so grateful you’re part of our community. Stay with us.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.