Harvard Psychiatrist: These are the Foods that Destroy Your Brain

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Harvard Psychiatrist: These are the Foods that Destroy Your Brain

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Dr. Uma Naidoo discusses the effects of consuming junk food on the brain.

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  • Dr. Naidoo usually recommends probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir, but acknowledges the benefits of probiotics in certain situations, especially when making dietary changes.

What Junk Food Does to Your Brain (00:01:08)

  • Processed and fast foods contain ingredients that hijack cravings in the brain.
  • Fast food french fries are engineered to contain hidden sugar, tricking the brain into perceiving them as tastier and promoting overconsumption.
  • Animal studies show that consuming sugar from candy bars or processed foods activates dopamine reward pathways similar to street drugs like cocaine.
  • Excessive sugar consumption can lead to sugar addiction, where individuals crave sugary foods or drinks for a temporary "fix."
  • Over time, high sugar intake can cause neuronal shrinkage and should not be the predominant way of eating.
  • The psychology of eating plays a role, as constantly chasing cravings can lead to an endless cycle of consumption.
  • To break this pattern, individuals need to pause, reflect on their body and brain's needs, and make conscious changes to their eating habits.
  • On the positive side, there are foods that can promote brain health.

Foods & Nutrients that Positively Affect the Brain (00:03:55)

  • Calming foods can help improve brain function and decision-making.
  • Anxiety can lead to unhealthy food choices.
  • The "3 Cs" for brain health:
    • Choline: found in eggs and legumes, important for reducing anxiety.
    • Vitamin C: aids in the absorption of plant-based iron, found in citrus fruits.
    • Extra dark natural chocolate: improves anxiety and depression, contains a high amount of plant-based iron.
  • Colorful plant foods and fruits provide antioxidants and bioactive nutrients.
  • Liquids, especially calming teas and water, are crucial for hydration and mood regulation.
  • Omega-3 fats, found in wild salmon and plant-based sources, help manage anxiety and mood.
  • Spices and herbs contain powerful antioxidants that benefit brain health and have a calming effect.
  • Processed foods: high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, which can contribute to inflammation and impair brain function.
  • Sugary drinks: excessive consumption can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and increased inflammation, all of which can negatively impact brain health.
  • Artificial sweeteners: may alter gut bacteria and affect brain function, potentially contributing to anxiety and depression.
  • Refined carbohydrates: rapidly raise blood sugar levels, leading to inflammation and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Trans fats: found in processed foods, margarine, and fried foods, can damage brain cells and contribute to cognitive decline.
  • Alcohol: excessive alcohol consumption can damage brain cells, impair memory, and lead to cognitive decline.
  • Certain fish high in mercury: mercury can accumulate in the brain and cause damage to brain cells, leading to cognitive problems.

Spices for Brain Health (00:07:28)

  • Turmeric with black pepper activates the curcumin in turmeric by about 2,000%.
  • Cayenne pepper or capsaicin from cayenne pepper is helpful for anxiety.
  • Spices like peppermint, parsley, thyme, and Mexican oregano contain an antioxidant called linalool which helps with brain fog.
  • Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Saffron supplements can significantly improve mood and anxiety.
  • Saffron has also shown promise in improving sleep.

Link Between Dehydration & Anxiety (00:08:58)

  • Dehydration can lead to anxiety.
  • Water is necessary for multiple biochemical reactions in the body at the cellular and mitochondrial levels.
  • Dehydration can impair muscle function and the transport of micronutrients into and out of cells.
  • Dehydration can also contribute to hangovers and "hangxiety".
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water and consuming calming teas like passionflower and lavender tea can help reduce anxiety.

Offsetting the Negative Effects of a Bad Meal (00:10:56)

  • Regretting a meal can impact the biochemistry of the food and doesn't help in the long term.
  • Instead of regretting, focus on having a healthy snack, a great dinner, and exercising to offset the negative effects.
  • Counseling can help break the spiral of regret and focus on solutions like integrating more polyphenols and omegas into the next meal.
  • Processed foods, especially those high in added sugars and unhealthy fats, can damage the brain.
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, can also damage the brain.
  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, can cause inflammation in the brain.
  • Trans fats, found in many processed foods, can damage the brain's structure and function.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the brain and lead to cognitive decline.

Antioxidant-Rich Foods for the Brain (00:13:29)

  • Spices have powerful antioxidant properties.
  • Colorful plant foods provide a variety of antioxidants.
  • Antioxidant-rich teas, like green tea, can combat afternoon slumps.
  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil, are essential for brain health.
  • Leafy greens, like dandelion greens and watercress, contain folate which is associated with improved mood.

The Gut-Brain Axis (how the gut connects to the brain) (00:15:47)

  • The gut-brain connection involves both anatomical links and interactions with gut microbes.
  • Breakdown products of healthy foods interact with gut microbes to form short-chain fatty acids involved in neurotransmitter production.
  • Certain microbes, like Lactobacillus ruteri, are associated with neurotransmitters like GABA, which can help reduce anxiety.
  • Fast foods and sugary drinks feed bad gut microbes, leading to inflammation and leaky gut.
  • Breakdown products of healthy foods, like short-chain fatty acids, heal the gut and improve mental health over time.

Fermented Foods (00:18:10)

  • Fermented foods help lower inflammation.
  • Examples of fermented foods: kefir, kombucha, miso.
  • Buy fermented foods from the refrigerated section for more active cultures.

How to Calm Your Brain (00:19:45)

  • Practice breathwork exercises, such as pranayama yoga or breathwork yoga, to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Engage in mindfulness, meditation, and exercise that suits your preferences.
  • Stay hydrated and practice mindful eating.
  • Focus on consuming cruciferous vegetables rich in glucosinolates and anthocyanins, such as purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower, for their positive impact on the gut microbiome and overall health.

Where to Find More of Dr. Naidoo's Content (00:22:06)

  • Visit Dr. Naidoo's website at umidmd.com for information about her book and other content.
  • Find her book at major retailers and online bookstores.
  • Sign up for her newsletter at umidmd.com.
  • Follow her on social media at @drnaidoo.

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