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Brain Foods for Beating Depression & Anxiety with Dr. Drew Ramsey

Drew Ramsey, MD is a psychiatrist, author, and farmer. His work focuses on clinical excellence, nutritional interventions and creative media. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and in active telemedicine clinical practice based in New York City.

His work has been featured by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Lancet Psychiatry, The Today Show, BBC, and NPR and he has given three TEDx talks. He is the co-author of the Antidepressant Food Scale and his e-courses on Nutritional Psychiatry education for the public and clinicians. His books Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety (Harperwave 2021), Eat Complete, 50 Shades of Kale, and The Happiness Diet explore the connections between mental health and nutrition. He is on the Advisory Board at Men’s Health, the Editorial Board at Medscape Psychiatry, and is a member of the Well+Good Wellness Council.

He splits his time between New York City and Crawford County, Indiana where he lives with his wife and children on their organic farm and forest.

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How do you eat to beat depression and anxiety?

Today, I want to have a very timely conversation about brain foods and mental health. The last year has been difficult in so many ways, and mental health is a priority, now more than ever.

Joining us is my good friend and nutritional psychiatrist, Dr. Drew Ramsey. He’s the author of a brand-new book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks.

Be sure to take notes, as this conversation is going to be filled with practical tips on ways to improve your brain health and mental health—many you can use right away. If you love brain foods and want to learn more about how to use food to better your body and mind, this episode is for you.

*** Do you want to stay up to date with every new episode and get my brand new Kwik Brain Accelerator Program? Go to www.KwikBrain.com/podcast to get instant access. ***

"My goal is to help you gain a better understanding of nutrition for the brain so that you can get your brain into grow mode."


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Mental Health As A Priority

  • Over the last year, more people started talking about mental health because so many people were struggling with it.
  • As you emerge from the pandemic, remember, it’s still a challenging transition.
  • You may be dealing with a lot of mental health wounds from this past year.
  • You might be feeling apprehensive about being socially rusty, or excited to be out again and facing some guilt towards that.
  • There’s a lot of powerful feelings right now.
  • Collectively, it’s important to recognize and process the grief everyone is dealing with. Whether you lost someone you loved or someone you knew, or simply have been grieving the loss of the way life once was.
  • Mental health is a visible conversation right now, and that’s why food is such an important thing to focus on.
  • The first step is to stop thinking about food in specific ways.
  • It’s common to think of food in terms of calories rather than nutrition.
  • Instead, view all cells as important, but the brain and your neurons are the most important cells.
  • The brain has specific nutritional requirements, so the first thing you need to do is shift your thinking regarding nutrition to put your brain first.
  • Your brain is the most important organ in your body.
  • It burns 20% of the calories you eat, has 7 – 9 times more vitamin B9 folate, more vitamin C, and really high concentrations of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It takes up 2% of your body mass but is an energy hog. Consciousness and creativity take a lot of energy.

Mental Health And Nutrition

  • After you adjust thinking about nutrition in terms of your brain, the next step is to accept the idea that you can feed your mental health.
  • Nutrition and mental health don’t have silver bullet answers. There’s no one thing that will be the answer.
  • But there is so much data on how nutrition is your most powerful environmental factor to reducing depression and anxiety—and it’s mostly under your control.
  • This conversation is meant for everyone, regardless of your budget, knowledge, or level of current awareness. Dr. Ramsey gets a lot of his brain food from a Wal-Mart in his rural Indiana home.
  • There are always things you can do in your everyday life to better feed your mental health.
  • The next step is to look at some of the research. An excellent place to start is in Dr. Ramsey’s new book.
  • A lot of data on depression and anxiety focuses on serotonin (particularly serotonin medications) or cognitive behavioral therapy. Both of these treatments are excellent and important in combatting the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • But it’s also important to expand the importance of lifestyle factors that play a role as well.
  • Start thinking about what you can do in your daily life to better nourish your brain. Specifically, how to nourish it in a way that either makes you less prone to depression and anxiety, or doesn’t exacerbate the symptoms.
  • Some of the concepts being researched include inflammation, how the body deals with the brain’s waste, the alarm signals associated with both.
  • The most exciting idea involves neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain is growing new brain cells.
  • Food is a powerful signal in all of these.
  • You can start to gear your thinking about nutrition to focusing on feeding your brain, so it goes into grow mode.

Eating For Better Mental Health

  • The goal of understanding nutrition for the brain is all about how to get your brain into grow mode.
  • Everything in the Kwik Brain Universe is focused on getting you to utilize your brain in a better way.
  • Just like speed reading or memory exercises are tools to improve your brain, look at your fork as just as powerful a tool.
  • A lot of people feel scared, confused, or overwhelmed when it comes to food. But food is simply a tool. Every time you see your fork, think of how you’re feeding your brain.
  • For neuroplasticity to occur, you need novelty. If you want to grow a muscle, you give it novelty by working out and exercising. But you also have to feed it.
  • Dr. Ramsey and his colleague Laura LaChance published a research project in the Journal of World Psychiatry called, Antidepressant Foods.
  • They looked at all the scientific literature that involved the essential vitamins and minerals associated in depression.
  • They found twelve nutrients that stood out as having significant levels of evidence that they were involved in either the development of or the treatment of depression.
  • Things like magnesium, vitamin B12, zinc, iron.
  • By focusing on foods high in these minerals, you can start to eat towards better mental health.
  • To make it even easier, you can also start focusing on nutrition in terms of food categories. Instead of thinking about eating more wild salmon, think about your relationship with seafood.
  • Experiment with your palate and try things you’ve never eaten before. Trying new foods stimulates your creativity and adds novelty, so it helps with neuroplasticity.
  • You can try mussels at home; they’re easy, inexpensive, and really great for your brain. Or Caesar salad with anchovies.
  • Anchovies, clams, mussels are ancient foods that have helped save the human species from going extinct during our evolution.
  • Some of the categories are well known: seafood, greens, nuts, beans, dark chocolate.
  • But there’s some new ones too. With the new data regarding the importance of your microbiome, the bacteria living in your gut that affects your brain health. You can add fermented foods to your diet.
  • Don’t focus on what you can’t have. Instead, focus on what you can have.
  • When you eat real foods as opposed to processed foods, you’re getting more fiber, protein, real fats. And those fill you up and settle you down.
  • You want food with lots of nutrition. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating. Dark chocolate, for example, is a great source of magnesium, iron, and fiber. It also has nutrients shown to slow age-related memory decline.
  • Pay attention to how food can change your mood too.
  • This is the non-nutritional aspect of food. It can calm us and comfort us.
  • There’s data that coffee and dark chocolate can increase blood flow to the brain.
  • Daily dark chocolate eaters have a 70% decreased risk of getting a diagnosis of depression.
  • A study of medical students who ate dark chocolate daily reported lower stress scores than those who didn’t.
  • Work on cutting out garbage candies and replacing it with nuts, dark chocolate, and berries. You can still have sweetness in your diet, just make sure you’re eating from sources that feed your brain.
  •  Be sure to check out the unedited, extended episode on YouTube, here.

Share With Us

  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@drewramseymd & @JimKwik), and share one food you’re going to add into your day that’s nutritious and delicious that feeds your mental health.
  • I’ll be reposting my favorites and will gift a copy of Dr. Ramsey’s book to one lucky listener.
  • Get your copy of Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks, here.
  • Get more information and visit Dr. Ramsey, here.


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